Jack B. Williams Delivers Wheelock College Commencement Speech
May 19, 2006
Congratulations! I'm honored to be here. I'm fascinated by your enthusiasm and potential. As a reporter, I've spent a lifetime watching people. At commencements it's fun to study your faces and try to pick who of you will achieve the most. If the past is repeated, then there are a number of you who have been operating below the radar and over the next several years will separate yourselves from the pack. Who are these people with all this potential? I think it's you - if you have the right plan. That's what I want to talk about today.
You live in the world's greatest country, where opportunity still surrounds you. But, in spite of all this, I heard a rumor that some of you are worried about the future: Worried about global warming, a bird flu pandemic, terrorists, the high cost of gasoline and the tightening job market. Should you be worried about the future? The answer is no. Worry only about that which you can control. Some things are out of your hands and you're just going to have to deal with them. Quite frankly, it's a waste of time and energy to sit around worrying about the future. Concentrate on now.
Over the last couple of decades I have given over a dozen commencement speeches. I read back over them the other day and was amazed to find out that each period of time had its own potential troubles and possible calamities for the graduates. And, each time, there were those in the graduating class who ignored the fears and went on to great success. How did they do this?
First, do yourself a favor: know the difference between truth and rumor. You’re going to have to be informed: really informed. Knowledge is power. You can't afford to ignore the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times...or the best of television news and documentaries. Real information from smart, well-educated people will be invaluable to you on life's journey. It will also help you to sift through rumors and propaganda. It is very important that you know the truth. And Freedom of the Press is the best friend you have.
This is your time. After all, you don’t have a choice. You have to get going in this environment-no excuses. I promise you, a number of you will succeed beyond your wildest imagination. And someday it may surprise you who those people turn out to be. It isn't necessarily the cutest, most handsome, the best athlete or the most popular people in your class. The most successful will be those of you who define what they really want out of life and go after it with a burning intensity.
I would love all of you to be successful. Because successful people will be in a better position to help others-those who are not as fortunate as we are who have not had the opportunities we've had. And, in the long run, it is what you do for others that will really define your life.
Look around you. Twenty years from now it will surprise you who really made it. There are people in this graduating class who will concentrate their energies and abilities and will do the impossible.
When I was a young man, I came across a seemingly simple formula that I applied to my life and it has made all the difference. As my gift to you, I'm going to share it with you. Use it if you want...but you need to do what I tell you in the order I outline.
First you need to figure out what you really want. What will motivate you? What will make you happy? What do you want out of life? Money? How much money? I know people who are perfectly happy with $50,000 a year. Others are unfulfilled even though they are worth tens of millions. What is it that will drive you and inspire you? First thing you have to do is to set your goals...not your parent's goals, or your friend's goals but what you want out of life. Write them down and review them-it is the key to everything you do in life. Dream the big dream!
Once you've done that, move onto step two. Call it belief or faith. You must understand that the most important person in the world is sitting in your chair. You're all you're going to have - this is it. Don't waste your time wishing you were somebody else. You've got to maximize what God has given you. This confidence has a magnetic quality that will amaze you. Let me give you an example: Let's say when you arrive home after graduation there's a message from a law firm asking you to stop by to hear a proposal from an anonymous benefactor. That would get your attention. You are