Chancellor's Recent Speeches

CSUF Commencement - 5/29/99

Good morning -- and to our graduates, congratulations.

It is a great honor for me to speak here on this joyful occasion.

I want to begin with a warm welcome to all of the families, friends, and guests who are joining us today.

We are very proud of our graduates -- as we know you are -- and we are grateful that you could be a part of the festivities here this morning.

I also want to offer a special salute to our student honorees and our honorary doctorate recipients.

Through your hard work and outstanding accomplishments, you have done great honor to this institution.

Finally, I want to offer a warm welcome to the Fullerton faculty, staff, and administrators. I want to thank you for everything you have done to help our students achieve their dreams.

I am very pleased that just this week, the California Faculty Association overwhelmingly ratified a contract agreement -- and I am optimistic that the Trustees will approve it on Tuesday.

Now it is time for us to look forward and collaborate constructively on our common goals:

  • Expanding educational opportunities to meet the needs of California's students;
  • Continuing to offer our students excellence in education;
  • Providing the state with graduates who can meet the challenges of the 21st century.

And now, to our graduates:

I know it's hard to listen to a long speech, because it's hard to give one too. I had to give an hour-long lecture a few months ago, and halfway through I realized that even I was getting bored.

That's why I hope to model my remarks after a former governor of Wyoming named Nels Smith, who gave one of the shortest commencement speeches ever.

When it came his time to speak, he went up to the podium, looked out at all of the graduates, and said, "You done good." Then he went back and sat down.

I think all of you "done good" today &emdash; and that's basically the message I want to share with you. But before I go back and sit down again, I also want to give you five short pieces of advice.

I've used them time and again, and they've never failed me, and so I thought I'd 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's so important, in fact, that I will spend just a little more time on this one than on numbers two through five.

When I say never give up, it doesn't matter what your dreams are. If you have a dream, you shouldn't let anyone else discourage you from it.

There will be barriers, there will be pitfalls, and there will probably be people who tell you that your ideas are stupid. But you can't let them talk you down. You might just have to walk down a long road by yourself.

In the meantime, you can draw inspiration from people who got laughed at for their ideas and then went on to become very successful. If they had listened to their early critics, our world would have been a lot different today.

Take Fred Smith, for example. As a management student at Yale University, he wrote a paper proposing reliable overnight delivery.

The professor wrote back, "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."

Fred Smith went on to start Federal Express.

Or take Debbie Fields, who wanted to start a cookie business.

One potential investor told her, "A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make."

Debbie Fields went on to start Mrs. Field's Cookies.

Then there's the musical group that applied to the Decca Recording Company in 1962. The recording company rejected the group, saying, "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."

The group was the Beatles.

Or consider these examples:

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were rejected by both Atari and Hewlett-Packard before they went on to start their own company, Apple Computer.

Dr. Seuss's first children's book was rejected by 23 publishers. The twenty-fourth publisher sold six million copies.

And, in a story that has now become famous, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

The message is clear -- you have to stick to your dreams. And when someone tells you that it's impossible, or you can't do something, you have to have the fortitude to hang in there and keep trying.

Above all, you can't get hung up on your defeats or setbacks. You should treat them as valuable learning experiences, and then you should move on.

The great inventor Thomas Edison once said about his mistakes, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

You have to adopt the same motto for yourself. You have to decide what you want to do, and do it.

Of course you will experience some setbacks -- but they will only "set you back" if you let them. If you think of them as learning opportunities, you'll have the right attitude to keep going forward.

So once again, all you have to do is just remember those three words: 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: Don't pay off your Master Card with your Visa Card.

Number four: Check your bag before you leave the drive-in window.

And number five: Don't pierce 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 Fullerton faculty, staff and administrators 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 California who made this educational opportunity possible for you.

And now I can finally say it: "You done good."

Thank you very much.


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