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WGU Graduate Speaker, Eric Gardner, Winter 2017

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Eric Gardner, Winter 2017
Western Governors University
<p>Eric Gardner earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Hello. Now I'm thinking maybe I should've been third. [Laughter] All right. So today you have heard a lot of inspiring stories, some from our most amazing master's program graduates. However, I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about settling. Now that may not seem very inspirational, but we'll get there.</p> <p>I'm the youngest of six, born to a woman who suffered from heart and lung disease. Sadly her deteriorating health left her unable to provide for us, so we relied solely on state assistance to cover utilities, food, and necessities. I quickly learned as a young child, not to expect the finer things in life. But my mother was smart and taught me an important lesson. She said, "Be content with what you have, if you don't, you'll always want more, and you'll never be satisfied." Or to put it another way, attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed that is.</p> <p>I took this lesson to heart, and throughout my life I have been content and grateful to God for everything I've received. However, over time my perception shifted and I lost the ability to decipher between contentment and complacency. So life moved on. I enrolled in a local community college but my attendance was very inconsistent. I dropped out to work full time thinking that was better. I worked many jobs, but never had a career, most likely, due to my lack of college education.</p> <p>So there I was, on the verge of turning 40, working at a dead end job, living in a dead end place with dead end prospects. However, all was not lost. During this time, I met the woman who would become my wife. As our relationship progressed, she questioned my current situation. [Laughter] God bless her. She asked why I didn't want more or desire more from life. I quietly explained my mother's philosophy of contentment. "I think you're confused," she said, "this isn't being content. This is settling." And I was really confused because I didn't think I was settling at all. I had a job, I had a roof over my head. But then she asked if I wanted any more out of life.</p> <p>And while I was thinking about that, she looked at me, and said something I will never forget. She said, "Being content is settling for what you have because you cannot do any better. But settling is being content with what you have even when you can do better. I realized she was right, as she usually is. I could do better. I deserve better. But more importantly, she deserved better.</p> <p>I was nervous and afraid of starting over. But then I remember something from my years in martial arts. Losing to an opponent is always acceptable, but losing to fear is not. So I made a decision. I would no longer simply be content with my life. But more importantly, I would never settle again.</p> <p>I re-enrolled at my local community college and after the third semester on the dean's list I was surprised I still had not received an invitation to the honor's society, Phi Theta Kappa. I learned the college utilized a cumulative GPA, and was including grades from 30 years before, barring me from admissions. Many students who've given up at this point, accepted their fate, and moved on. But not me. I was done settling.</p> <p>I got together with the deans of admission and pleaded my case. He was so impressed with my academic progress that he agreed to review their policy on acceptance conditions, effectively impacting change for potentially thousands of future students. And the following semester I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, and in 2012 I graduated with honors, receiving my Associates of Applied Sciences in Information Technology. [Applause]</p> <p>Thank you for that. However, I was still not satisfied. I wanted more, I refused to settle. You see, it's like the glass, we all know the glass, right? The pessimist says the glass is empty. The optimist says, no, the glass is half-full. But a leader looks and says, "I'm gonna fill that glass." And I was gonna fill that glass.</p> <p>In 2013, I discovered WGU and for the next two years I worked a full time job during the day, and labored over schoolwork by night. Very long nights. Ya'll know it. But it was very rewarding, thanks to great mentors like Robert [Inaudible]. He made it fantastic. I not only had to work hard, but I had to believe in myself. This is very important because you will find that confidence has the ability to feed each other. Or in other words, don't think you are, know you are.</p> <p>Now, here I am today, graduating with a bachelor's degree and speaking to all of you. I couldn't be more excited if you couldn't tell. And my wife and mother couldn't be more proud. WGU has enabled me to progress from a dead end job to a job nearly doubling my salary as an IT specialist where I support four libraries in the Onslow County Public Library System in my home state of North Carolina. [Applause]</p> <p>Clap for my wife, this is all her. [Applause] Where is my wife by the way? Wherever you are, Nancy, I love you. So, I will never forget the lessons I learned here at WGU. More important than that, the lesson that you don't have to be merely content with what you have, you don't have to settle with what you get. So, refusing to settle has allowed me to arrive at something I've been chasing my whole life, and something maybe you have too, and it's something I lovingly refer to as "the movie moment."</p> <p>Now, in film, this is the moment, the last scene, next to the last scene, where the main character finally gets her defining moment, her moment of glory or his moment of glory, either one. Ferris Bueller, when he sings at the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Danny LaRusso when he wins the championship in The Karate Kid. And now me, someone who had a dead end job in a dead end place with dead end prospects, and yet is ending his movie with a great job, a great wife, a great life. Not only receiving my bachelor's degree in IT at the age of 45, but also the honor of addressing my fellow graduates as a speaker here at WGU's 2017 where are we commencement. [Laughter] Sorry about that. We're almost there.</p> <p>I want to thank WGU because right here, right now, I am having my "movie moment," and it is amazing. Thank you. [Applause] And now you will soon have your moment and I encourage you to enjoy every second of it because that's what life is, it's a series of moments. But, while this may be the end of your movie, it is not the end of your story. Because while we all know that we love a great movie, what people really remember is great saga.</p> <p>So, as you prepare to enter the last scene of your movie here, make that decision to make this more than a one shot success. Refuse to settle. Fill that glass. Grab your moment and create your own saga. So what are we waiting for, WGU graduates? Your movie is ending and the credits are rolling. Now let's get started on the sequel. Thank you.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
© 2017 Western Governors University – WGU. All Rights Reserved.
Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)