Thank you, Dr. Madsen, for that thorough and gracious introduction. Before we get started now, I just have to tell you, Dr. Madsen, there’s one other award I wanted all of y’all to know about. My roommate Miss Auburn, and I were a team in the first Alpha Psi rodeo, and we won the goat milking contest. Oh yes, you have a fun as an Auburn student.
President Gogue, Trustee Sahlie, Platform Guest, thank y’all for inviting me to celebrate with the class of 2012 today. Students, graduates of 2012, today is all about you. And, all of these people who have doubted and nurtured you, to achieve this moment. Your families, your friends, Dr. Susie Gouge, your deans, your faculty, your administrators and your staff. We salute those who’ve gotten you to this point today as we focus on you the students.
And you’re about to become graduates. To embark on a journey that will have many new beginnings. Remember graduates, the circumstances around any new beginning, never determine your destiny. Wise choices determine your destiny. So how do you make wise choices? Well, you use wisdom.
So, what’s wisdom? How do you get it? Andy Andrews, the author of the book The Noticer, defines wisdom this way, wisdom is the ability to see into the future, the possible consequences of your decision before you make the choice.
Now, wise choices require time for you to see clearly the pros and the cons of possible choices that you’re about to make. As you consider those choices and possible consequences, be sure you keep your moral compass intact, do not be deterred, stay strong.
Auburn has many distinguished graduates, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple the most profitable company in the world. Oscar- winner Octavia Spencer, astronauts Kathryn Thornton, Ken Mattingly and Hank Hartsfield, Jason Dufner currently ranked among the top 10 golfers in the world, Bo Jackson. Then the list goes on to include Valentin Abe, one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2010, he works in fisheries in Haiti. General Lloyd Austin III, on the Vice Chief of Staff. And Dr. Eleanor Greene, Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M, the first woman to ever hold that position, and the list goes on.
The thing for us to learn is that you look at people who have had or are having distinguished careers, you must remember that they didn’t just wait for things to fall into place, they made wise choices. Those wise choices, before every new beginning that you encounter, will determine your outcomes and your destiny.
So remember the definition. Wisdom is the ability to see in the future the possible consequences before you make that decision. I assure you, your choices and the outcomes of those will define your destiny. Just as Oliver Windall Homes put it this way, it matters not what lies before us or behind us, what matters is what lies within us. Throughout my journey I’m proud to say that three of the 8 character values in the Auburn Creed have guided me, and my choices, and have determined my destiny. I share these three values briefly with you today.
The first value is hard work. The creed says that I believe that this a practical world, and I can count only on what I earn, therefore I believe in work, hard work. Counting on only what I can earn, and hard work are (inaudible) to America’s economic liberties, and democracy. Remember Thomas Jefferson with me very briefly.
Between the ages of 9 and 19, he completed studies in Latin, Greek, French, Classical Literature in William and Mary College and studied law for 5 years.
Between the ages of 25 and 33, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, and wrote the Declaration of Independence. At age 57, he was elected the third President of the United States, and negotiated for the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the then Continental United States. At age 81, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and served as its first president.
When President John F. Kennedy occupied the White House during his tenure, he convened a group of the brightest minds for a dinner at the White House. And to that group, President Kennedy said, this is perhaps the assembling of the most intelligence ever together, at one time in the White House, with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.
Thomas Jefferson said this about hard work, “the democracy will seize to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work, and give to those who would not”. He added, “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of people, under the pretense of taking care of them”. You and I believe in the creed, I believe I can count on only in what I earn, and therefore I believe in hard work.
The second value that guides my life is honesty. The creed says, I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot earn the respect and the confidence of my fellow man. Proverbs 22:1 tells us, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches”. Friends, think of all of the people that you’ve heard about or known, who’ve reached great heights in their careers, only to fall into the dirt of their dishonest deeds. Sports heroes, generals, corporate executives, elected officials and others.
My father was an Auburn man, class of 36’, captain of the polo team. And he taught me that your word is your bond, and your handshake is your contract. Honesty and truth must be front and center in your wise choices.
The third value from the creed is service to God and country. The creed says, I believe in my country because it is a land of freedom. It is my home. I can best serve my country by doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God. The Americans creed also speaks to this. In its closing paragraph it states, I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.
All, graduates, means both foreign and domestic. And the greatest enemy we have among us, greater than terrorism, is the enemy of apathy. Graduates as you go forward, you must be engaged. You must be involved in serving your community to make it a better quality of life where you live because you chose to be there.
We must pay our civic rent, just like we have to pay our house rent. That’s the way that citizenship works. We have to give back to where we live. The most successful elected public official at any level, is the public official who hears from, and listens to, constituents they serve. So graduates, you be engaged with accurate information. You must participate in the process of being an effective citizen leader.
Remember all that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men and women to do nothing. The three values from the Auburn creed, hard work, honesty, service to God and country, are the three most meaningful traits of the Auburn creed that have affected me and my destiny. Graduates, what will your destiny be? It’s your choice, you get to decide, and it’s up to each one of you.
And graduates, join me in the final words of the Auburn Creed, you know the words well, sing it out, repeat it out with me, and because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn, and love it. You all have got to do better than that.
And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn, and love it. May God continue to bless you graduates, the great state of Alabama, and these United States of America.
Speech from https://youtu.be/IwD-yzL_XQY?t=1m25s.