The Commencement Speech I Wish I Heard

Invited guests, families, friends and most of all members of the Class of 2014. We gather on this momentous day to celebrate the hard work and dedication that you have exhibited these past few years. You should be proud of all that you have done.

Graduates take a moment to honor your families and friends who have traveled far and wide to be with you on this day. Whether it was the phone call to mom or dad just to hear their voice (though we know you won't admit that). Whether it was the call to grandma and grandpa when you were in need of reassuring words or the occasional deposit into your account. Or whether it was the aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family members that cheered you on from the sidelines. This is as much their day as it is yours. Stand up, turn around and give them a public standing ovation for being the wind beneath your sails these past few years.

Often times at graduations people hear how amazing they are. It is often said that the graduating class has accomplished more in their time at a school than any class before them. It is often said that they are the greatest. I am here to tell you don't believe the hype. Every single one of us that have graduated have heard the same theme. I hate to break the news to you. But you are not great. Some may say that this is a harsh assessment, and one that shouldn't be said on this day. I say there is no better time to hear the truth than now.

Greatness is accomplished in deeds and actions, not words. If we look in the annals of history, the men and women who we consider great are considered such because of the works that they have done. We do not remember the schools that Mother Teresa, Harriett Tubman, Ghandi or King went to. We do not follow their examples and learn about their efforts because people called them great. These people led lives of service to themselves and to others. Their greatness was manifested in what they did not the titles they attained.

The price of greatness is responsibility. I ask you have you paid your price of admission to be called great? If the good Lord called you home at this very minute and asked you what have you done to change the earth you lived on, what would you say? Odds are not enough. And honestly that's fine.

Graduates this is your time to use the potential that you have to prove that you are great. At this particular moment in history there is more opportunity to have a wide ranging impact than at any other point. Technology and social media, start-up companies and think tanks are opening up all over the world. Harness the skills and power that you have to use these tools to shape and change the world we live in. If the hashtag #justicefortrayvon and #arabspring can help create movements and campaigns in the United States and in the Middle East then surely the power that you have is infinite. But go deeper. Don't just become hashtag activists. Find a cause that you can put some solid time into and fight for it. Your nation and world depends on it.

Along this journey to greatness remember that there are those who will look to you for inspiration. They may be people in your families or people in your community. Take some time to connect with them. As the saying goes "there but by the grace of God go I." It is a humbling moment when we realize that our success is inextricably tied to the success of others. If we achieve success and do not pass it on then what good are we here for? Help the young man and woman who but for some good preparation and a little bit of luck could have been you. It is your duty.

So while I don't see greatness in you right now, what I see is an ocean of possibility that will one day flow like a river to a field of greatness. It is your task to make that field green with the promise that you have. Your greatness will one day become reality. But graduates ask yourselves the ultimate question: Are you ready to put in the work?


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