of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
President White, Chancellor Herman, members of the faculty,
graduates, ladies and gentlemen,
I'm profoundly grateful and touched by the distinction and
honor and great compliment accorded me by the University of Illinois.† I am overwhelmed, as a matter of fact.
In this important place, on this important day, and in this
very wonderful assembly, it is a tremendously impressive thing to an individual
in my position.
I want to join with your families in congratulations for
your accomplishments.† And I want to talk
about what happens next.
I want to talk to you about some decisions that you will
have to make.† I want to talk to you
about what you can expect and opportunities that you are likely to
encounter.† I want to talk about making a
difference.† About leaving the world a
better place than you found it.
There is a story attributed to the notorious oil magnate,
John Paul Getty, Sr.† When asked about
the keys to success by a young intern, he explained that there were three such
First, get a great education.† Attend the best schools.† Study hard.†
Be prepared. Become an honor roll student.
Secondly, work hard.†
Be the first to show up for work. †Be the last to leave.† Work weekends.† Nights.†
Always do your best.† Be a top
The third key to success --- and most importantly -- find
There is some truth in this story.
Think for a moment about the immense opportunities that are
before each and every one of you.† Your
productive careers will span the next six decades.† Six decades.†
Think about it.† Six decades.
In the next six decades the body of scientific knowledge as
we know it will increase by a factor of three or more.† You will have the privilege of participating
in that phenomenon.† Many of you will
participate significantly in some of the most exciting developments in the
history of mankind.
Some of you will discover cures for cancer.† Some will perfect the hydrogen fuel
cell.† Some of you will control influenza
pandemic. †Some will lead the
colonization of outer space. †Some will
create new companies. Make new products. †Create Jobs.†
Develop new food sources. †Foster
Prosperity.† Husband Peace.
The world will be a better, healthier, happier place for
what you will do.
Those of you who take this route will make sacrifices.† Lots of sacrifices.
You have all studied history.† Think back upon those individuals who have
made a difference.† Really made a difference.
Think about it. Think about Winston Churchill,
Michelangelo, Louis Pasteur. Think about Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson,
Isaac Newton, Johannes Gutenberg, Steve Jobs.†
Think about Sally Ride and Margaret Thatcher.† Think about Martin Luther and Martin Luther
You have all studied these people.† These great leaders are representative of
that group who collectively articulated those concepts and principles, the sum
of which constitute our perception of the universe, as we know it.
Those great people brought us gravity, electricity, germ theory.
†They invented the printing press,
movable type, the Internet, the Basilica, the public library, the modern
university. †They created nations, our
religions, and democracy. †They
discovered outer space. †And they brought
us the very concepts of individual liberty and human dignity.
These people changed the world, each of
them.† Collectively, they, and their
like, conceived of the world, as we understand it today. †Letís look upon this group and see what they
had in the way of common traits.
How about education? †Some were exceptionally well educated.† Some were mediocre students. †Many were uneducated.
Work ethic. †In
general, these people were driven.† They
were focused.† They got up earlier. †They worked longer. †They were tireless.† Some were out there. †Eccentric. Almost maniacal.† Some were troubled.
They all achieved
Ė and they all achieved at great personal cost.
In addition to amazing work ethics, it
seems that these people were unusually sensitive to what was going on around
them.† They heard things that other
people could not hear.† They saw things
that others could not see.† You might
call it vision.† A moment of clarity.† Insight.†
Whatever you call it, at one or more
moments in their lives, they saw something.† Something different.† And they were able to recognize that it was
different.† That is was potentially
important.† And they did not let the
moment go unnoticed.† They did something
Be sensitive to that moment. †It will happen to you.† Do not let it go unnoticed.
So we have a group of mixed
education.† Tireless work ethic.† Great vision.†
Perhaps most importantly however, they also were very, very lucky Ė each
and every one.
Now donít discount luck.† It will be a critical component of your
success.† Some people say you make your
own luck.† There is clearly some truth to
that.† These concepts of work ethic,
vision, and luck seem to be interrelated.
Take Tiger Woods, for example.
Work ethic. †He is arguably one of the hardest working,
best-prepared athletes in sport.† His
physical conditioning and practice regimens are second to none.
How about vision?† Well, Tiger Woods can see every shot before
he takes it.† He can see the launch
angle. †The trajectory.† The landing, the bounce, and the roll.† He can literally see it every time before he
takes a swing.† Think about that.
Well, letís just say it might not be entirely a coincidence that he
seems to get more lucky bounces than any person in golf.
There is most certainly truth to the idea
that you make your own luck.†† I
encourage you to be very alert to what is going on around you.† Letís explore this luck thing a little bit
There will be some moments in your life
when the stars simply seem to align.† You
will flip a coin 10 times in a row Ė and it will come up heads every time.† You will look up and you will notice that the
wind has been at your back every day for a week.
Be ready for that moment.† It will happen to you.† Some of you will recognize it and know it for
what it isÖgreat, good fortune.
Some of you will be preoccupied with
matters of the moment to notice.† Perhaps
stress or simply the distractions of daily life will get in the way.† Others will see it for what it is.
There will be such moments in your
life.† Seize that moment.† That is the start of the next company.† The cure for cancer.†† The hydrogen fuel cell.† The next great thing.
There is clearly a non-rational process
at the heart of such ideas.† Itís an
idea.† Itís a vision. †Itís a feeling.† It is something that you know to be true. †Take it and run with it.
Take it. †When it happens, take it and run with it. †Run with it.†
Donít listen to all the naysayers. †The experts.†
The authority figures.† They will
stand in line to tell you your idea is impractical, impossible, unrealistic.† Donít listen to them.† You know it
to be true.
This is the opportunity you have been
waiting for.† This is what you are here
to do.† Donít take no for an answer. †Make it happen
Letís switch gears for a moment from the
sublime to the mundane and talk about getting started.† How do you get started?† What do you do now?
Many of you have not yet figured out what
you want to do for a living.† Donít feel
bad.† Most people donít. †I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left
college. †My first job out of undergraduate
school was working as a cowboy on a ranch in Idaho.† From there, I became a laborer on a
construction site in Sun Valley.† I
managed a shovel.
How do you get started? †First thing, you need to get a job.† How do you do that?† I guess there are a couple of ways.† A common route is to get as many interviews
as you can, until someone offers you a job.†
And then you take it and make the best of it.† I do not recommend that route.
My suggestion to you is that you find an
industry that you find interesting.† Say
biotech.† Or travel.† Perhaps entertainment.† Communications. †Aerospace.†
Automotives. †Within that industry
identify a high quality company that you would like to work for.† Located in a place that you would like to
And then get hired there.† Learn everything you can about the
company.† Study it on the Internet.† Read its annual reports.† Become an expert.† And then figure out how to get a job there.† Any job.†
It doesnít matter.
Write the CEO.† Write the VP of Engineering.
Get yourself an interview and explain
that you want to work for that company Ė no other company -- and you are
willing to take any job to get started.
Get a job in the mailroom.† The help desk.† The front desk.† Customer service.† Donít worry about the salary or the title. †Just get a job.† After you get in the door, then the rest is
up to you.† Make it happen.
One closing thought.† I want to talk about ethics.† Today is Motherís Day -- a most appropriate
day to talk about ethics.
You will have the opportunity to cross the line every day of your lives,
every day of your professional careers. †In little ways.† In big ways.
Some opportunities will be more tempting
than others.† Some will seem
inconsequential.† Some will appear common
Hereís a litmus test that you can
use.† What would your mother think? †What would she say if you told her about
it?† If you use that test to gauge your
behavior, you will do the right thing.
Thatís it.† Thank you, merciful God; weíve reached the
end of the speech!
But for you, it is just the beginning. †Work Hard.†
Be attentive.† Always be watching
for that lucky moment.
Good luck to you all.† And, most importantly, have fun.† Make it look easy.† Smile a lot.
I thank you for your kind attention.