Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
University of Central Florida Commencement
College of Arts & Humanities, Education and Sciences
“Never Give Up”
August 4, 2007

To President John Hitt, members of the platform party, including Dan Holsenbeck and M.J. Soileau, who were here when I was Chancellor, and to all the family, friends, faculty, staff and supporters of the university’s graduating class…welcome.

I applaud you for what you have done to make this a celebration for all of the graduates here today.

And to the graduates … congratulations on all that you have achieved during your years here at UCF.

It is a great honor for me to be back in Florida to speak here on this joyful occasion.

It has been nearly 10 years since I left Florida for California.

I had more hair then, and it was darker. So I’m not sure if it was leaving Florida or living in California that caused that to happen…

Seriously, one of the things I took with me to the west was always to remember to put students first.

I learned that in Florida, and it has continued to be my focus at the California State University, where we have 450,000 students.

Students are what make a university, and you are great examples of that. You are leaders.

I’m sure it was not easy for many of you to get to this point, which makes it all the more important that we as university leaders, faculty and staff honor you for what you have accomplished during your years at UCF.

I want to do three things today, and I will not take too much time doing it. I am certain that you would rather walk across this stage and get your diploma than listen to me.

People today have shorter attention spans – me included – so I don’t want to bore you, and I don’t want to bore myself, either.

One, I want to honor all of you who teamed up to make the University of Central Florida the great university that it is…

Two, I want to commemorate the hard work that all the students have done to complete their degree programs…

And Three, I want to share five short pieces of advice that I always give to graduates.

To those of you who are part of the UCF family…

The University of Central Florida is nearly 40 years old, but it continues to move forward academically all the time, by increasing its enrollment and soon adding a College of Medicine.

This would not be happening if you did not have John Hitt as your president. I recommended him to the Board of Regents 15 years ago in March 1992, and he truly is a leader with a vision – just look at this campus today.

It also would not be happening if UCF were not a destination campus that provides students with a high quality education.

Through the hard work and outstanding accomplishments of the faculty and staff, this institution has:

  • Expanded educational opportunities to meet the needs of Florida's students
  • Continued to offer students excellence in education
  • Provided the state with graduates who can meet the challenges of the 21st century
  • Changed the meaning – UCF (“You Can’t Finish”) to UCF (Under Construction Forever).

Thank you for all that you have done to help students achieve their dreams, especially for those in the student body who are first-generation students.

As the first in my family to go to college, I knew both the fears and the anticipation of college.

When I graduated, I know how much it meant to my family and to me, so let us think of these first-timers and help them make it to the finish line today.

To the graduates…

Realize that you had the potential to get here, and you have the potential to succeed even further.

Apply yourselves to the next step in your education, whether that is graduate school or your first career move. And find ways to share your many talents with your communities.

I recently came across the book “Cowboy Ethics: What We Can Learn from the Code of the West.

In it, author James P. Owen, a veteran Wall Street financier, explores the life and code of the working cowboy as a new approach to ethical thinking.

I think we all can learn something from the Code, which goes like this:

  1. Live each day with courage
  2. Take pride in your work
  3. Always finish what you start
  4. Do what has to be done
  5. Be tough, but fair
  6. When you make a promise, keep it
  7. Ride for the brand
  8. Talk less and say more
  9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale
  10. And Know where to draw the line.

Those are good rules to live by and to remember as you go out into the workforce.

Now, let me give you five pieces of advice that I have used time and time again, and they've never failed me. So I thought I would share them with you today.

The first piece of advice is short and to the point: Never give up.

This piece of advice is very important. It is so important that I will spend a little more time on it than the others.

It is about the shortest commencement address in history. It was given by Sir Winston Churchill at Notre Dame University in 1946.

On that day, the university president gave a long and effusive introduction of Churchill. He called him a leader of the free world, a person who led most of Europe and the U.K. through its darkest days – you can imagine all he said.

Churchill then walked up to the podium, looked out at the thousands of people in the Notre Dame stadium, and said, “Never give up!”

Then he turned around and sat down in his chair on the stage.

The president, clearly taken aback, said, “Mr. Prime Minister, would you care to expand on that?”

So Churchill walked back to the podium, and said, “Never, never give up!”

And he was finished.

So when I say never give up, it doesn't matter what your dreams are. If you have a dream, you should not let anyone discourage you from it.

There will be barriers. There will be pitfalls. And there will be people who will tell you that your ideas are stupid.

But listen to the people who took their dreams and went on to become very successful – don’t listen to the naysayers.

For example, I just read Bill Gates’ commencement address that he gave in June at Harvard.

You all probably know he is Harvard’s most famous dropout, so some might think he’s not the best example to give a commencement speech.

But he took his dream to develop software, and look where he landed.

He joked during his commencement address that it was probably better that Harvard invited him to speak at commencement, not at orientation, because more people might have dropped out, just like he did.

But what he said is important for all of you:

“In line with the promise of this age, I want to exhort each of the graduates here to take on an issue – a complex problem, a deep inequity, and become a specialist on it. If you make it the focus of your career, that would be phenomenal. But you don’t have to do that to make an impact.

“For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them.

“Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.”

The message is clear -- you have to stick to your dreams and do something with the skills and knowledge you are taking with you from UCF.

Just remember those three words in all you do: Never give up.

The next four pieces of advice are fairly self-explanatory, but no less important.

Number two: Continue to read good books.
Number three: Check your bag before you leave the drive-in window.
Number four: Don't pay off your Master Card with your Visa Card.
And number five: Don't pierce or tattoo anything you can't hide in a job interview.

I know that if you follow these five pieces of advice, you'll do OK.

And now for the two words that graduates love to hear: In conclusion.

In conclusion, I offer you my warmest congratulations, and I wish you best of luck in all you do.

Please take some time today to thank your friends, family, and all of the university faculty and staff who helped you reach this important milestone.

Remember, you didn't get here by yourself.

And when you reach that pinnacle of success -- which I know you will -- don't forget to give something back to your alma mater and to the people of Florida who made this educational opportunity possible for you.

You have an obligation to be a giver, not a taker.

The state of Florida has helped you with your education, and now you have to put that degree to good use for the state and others not as fortunate as you.

I wish all of you a lifetime of success and fulfillment in sharing your talents with your communities, your state, and your country.

And remember, you are leaders.

And leaders never give up.

Thank you very much.

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