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WGU Commencement Address from Will Weatherford
WGU Commencement Address from Will Weatherford
Western Governors University
<p>WGU 2017 Winter Commencement Speaker Will Weatherford, Managing Partner, Weatherford Partners and Former Speaker, Florida House of Representatives.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Will Weatherford: Good morning. What a great day. I'm so honored to be here, and President Pulsipher and to the members of the boards of trustees, the faculty, the parents and the loved ones, and most importantly to the graduates, and to those watching who are graduates, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this very special ceremony.</p> <p>It's especially meaningful to me because I believe Western Governors University represents the future in higher education in the 21st century. With its competency based education system, and its student centered focus, Western Governors University has become a trailblazer in higher education in a rapidly changing world. As I've felt today in the presence of this room, there is something special about WGU.</p> <p>Now they say that confession is good for the soul, so, I guess it would be appropriate for me to start out this morning with a confession. I don't remember a single word that was said at my graduation from my college. Sadly enough, what's even more embarrassing is, I was one of the speakers when I graduated from college. So I say that because I don't expect you to live on every word I'm about to say, after all, this speech does in conveniently stand between you and the wonderful and hard work diploma that you're about to receive here shortly.</p> <p>But I know also how important this day is, not just for you, but for your parents and your family members and your friends and your loved ones. And I just look out in this room, and to see the thousands and thousands of people that showed up to support you. It's clear that you worked very hard to get here, and you sacrificed to get here. But there's a lot of people in this room who also sacrificed to help make this day a reality. Make sure and tell them today how much you appreciate them.</p> <p>Because of my public service in elected office, I had the opportunity to give a lot of speeches. What makes this one a little bit even more special is that part of me feels like I should be sitting out there with you. It was stated just now that the average age of the graduate is 39 years old. My wife and I both turned 37 this year and we have four children. And so I say that because this is not one of those speeches where I feel like I'm passing the gavel onto another generation. I'm talking to my generation. And I believe that together, we can make this world and this country a much better place, and today is a big step for you in helping make that happen.</p> <p>Now, I was thinking about the fact that I get to deliver some of the last words that you'll get to hear before you become a graduate. I believe last words can be very instructive, they're important things. There's actually some interesting history of people who actually on their deathbeds, their last words, the last words that people said before they passed away. And I think it's worth reflecting on that for just a moment. So here are some actual last words from some leaders and some names you'll recognize.</p> <p>First, from the former president of the United States, and one of our founding fathers, John Adams. Now John Adams had a life long competition with Thomas Jefferson. And what he didn't know is that before he died, Thomas Jefferson had died four hours earlier and they both died on the 50th anniversary of The Declaration of Independence, July 4th. And on his deathbed, the last words that John Adams said was, "Thomas Jefferson lives." Ironic. True story.</p> <p>The powerful Alexander the Great had no children. He had amassed this massive empire and all of his generals were at his bedside asking him, "Alexander, who is going to take over this empire that you've created?" Alexander the Great replied to them on his deathbed, his last words, "Whoever is the strongest."</p> <p>And lastly, to a successful actor and Hollywood entertainer, Humphrey Bogart, his last words I thought were somewhat interesting. "I never switched from scotch to martinis." [Laughter] True story, look it up.</p> <p>Now, I wouldn't necessarily compare myself to those people or their last words certainly. But I am going to give you a few last words and some pieces of advice that have served me well in my tenure. The first is easy. It's to never, ever, ever give up. There's a book that just recently came out by a lady named Angela Duckworth, it's called Grit. If you haven't read it, you should. And essentially, the argument that she makes that's based with data and research is that forever we've always thought that success correlated with intelligence. How high was your IQ? What did you get on your SAT score? That's what would determine how successful you would be in life.</p> <p>What she found, when she dug into it, and the research showed is that someone's desire to succeed, their ability to persevere, their ability to fight through challenges that come before them is the greatest indicator of whether or not someone will succeed. So it's not just how smart you are, it's how willing are you to fight and work hard to achieve that success. Never, ever give up.</p> <p>Number two. Never live a life of fear. There's a difference between living a life in fear, and being scared. We've all been scared. I almost died in a plane crash 12 years ago. That was pretty scary, okay? There is nothing wrong with being scared. But living a life of fear is a dangerous thing. And in the Bible, over 350 times the phrase is used, "do not be afraid, do not be scared, do not fear." Maybe God was trying to make a point, what do you think?</p> <p>Psychologists will tell you that fear is one of the most powerful emotions that a human can have. Fear is what cripples our national politics, fear is what prevents entrepreneurs from taking the risk to achieve something great. Fear prevents us from living our dreams. Never live your life in fear.</p> <p>Number three. We have a responsibility to give back by serving others no matter who we are, or what circumstances we find ourselves in. Churchill came to the United States in 1943 and spoke at a Harvard graduation and his speech was called and entitled, "The price of greatness is responsibility." His speech was the fact that America had become a great nation. The greatness of America though is not endowed by our creator. The greatness of America is not guaranteed. It is earned by each generation and we each have a responsibility to preserve its greatness.</p> <p>You see, the idea of America is exceptional, but we live up to that idea because what is embedded in that idea is that we are people who serve each other, and we serve those who are greatest in need. So whether it's giving back by mentoring a young person, serving in a soup kitchen, helping someone in their time of need, or any other form of public service, always find a way to give back.</p> <p>Number four. Be prepared for the changing world that is around you. The world is changing quickly. We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution with technology, artificial intelligence, and global connectivity changing the way that we live our lives. Education is no longer something that you're finished with after you get your degree. Your degree today is only part of that life long learning process that you are now going to be proceeding forward with.</p> <p>Business is changing. Health care is changing. Education is changing. Information technology is changing. The world is not stagnant, it is moving at a rapid pace, and more rapid than ever before so commit yourselves to life long learning, and making sure that you can compete in this knowledge based economy.</p> <p>Last, and number five is that your character matters more than your reputation. When I was a young man, I had a brother, his name was Drew, and Drew got to play quarterback for Florida State University for four years, about ten years ago. And I will never forget when coach Bobby Bowden, the legendary coach of Florida State came to our house to recruit my brother to play for him.</p> <p>And we were talking about what type of environment he was going to set for his student athletes, and he told my mom and us as kids, that character mattered more than reputation because reputation is what other people think about you. Your character is what God knows about you. Character is more important than reputation. [Applause]</p> <p>So let's rehash. Never give up. Do not live a life of fear. Give back by serving others. Be prepared for the changing world. And remember that your character matters more than your reputation. Today is a great milestone in your life. You have a degree and you have gained knowledge and wisdom that will give you new opportunities as you go forward. Many of you will go on to further your education, others will be entering the workforce, many of you have been in the workforce for a very long time. Whatever your next step is, I wish you all the success in it.</p> <p>But I have one last thought for you. My favorite last word example. It's from a beloved children's author and probably the first author many of you ever read: Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss, on his deathbed said, "We can do better than this." When you look around America, and you see the challenges that we face, the political partisanship, the income and opportunity inequality, the technology disruption, the racism, the terrorism, the civil unrest, the $20 trillion of deficit that we face as a country, it can feel overwhelming. It can seem overwhelming, but these are real challenges that we face as a people, as a society.</p> <p>I think it's easy to see the world the way that Dr. Seuss did, and that is that we can do better than this. And I believe that if we work together, we will do better than this. Graduates, you've accomplished so much. Today is a day to celebrate your wonderful, hard fought achievement. Tomorrow is about what you will do with it. Congratulations, and thank you very much. [Applause]</p>
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