Dr. Kelly Mekdeci
Members of the Board of Directors
Special invitees and most importantly,
I am very pleased to be here this evening as we celebrate this important achievement in your lives. Congratulations. Let’s give the graduates, and their parents and teachers another well-deserved round of applause.
It wasn’t long ago that I was seated in the parents section of my son’s high school graduation. Like many graduates, he wasn’t sure of what he wanted to do, but fortunately he has his mother’s intellectual curiosity and he was willing to try different things. He will soon graduate from college with a business degree, and I asked him what were among his favorite classes. He said he enjoyed marketing. I recall my days at the University of South Carolina, where I earned a Master’s degree in International Business and was introduced to marketing principles. I remember that there were 4 P’s – product, price, place and promotion.
When I reflected about what words of wisdom to share with you all tonight, I thought about 4 different P’s. The first is perseverance. In order to be successful in anything you choose to do, you have to stick with it. You can’t give up at the first sign of adversity.
A good example is Walt Disney. Believe it or not, he was told that he lacked creativity. He was fired by the Kansas City Star in 1919 because his editor said he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Disney went to Hollywood and the rest is history. Think of his story the next time you go to a Disney movie, or if a supervisor tells you that you are not good enough. Persevere and prove them wrong.
The second P is patience. As you transition from the comforts of your parents’ home to being on your own, be patient with yourself as you adjust to your new environment, and what will likely be a much larger classroom scene. I can tell you that after 28 years in the foreign service moving to and from Colombia, Paraguay, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Mexico,and, now, Guyan you have to be patient as you adapt to new surroundings and a different routine.
Also, don’t be discouraged when things do not go your way, and, believe me there will be times when they don’t. At the same time, don’t get too excited when you hit it out of the park. You will have to bat again.
President John Quincy Adams once said, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” Remember that.
The third P is Passion. It has often been said, but it bears repeating, that if you follow your passion, you will never work a day in your life; that is to say, your job won’t feel like work because you will enjoy what you are doing. Commencement is a time to close one chapter, turn the page and try to find out what you are truly passionate about. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and take classes outside your major, or join clubs that may be interesting to you. In one of my first jobs after college I worked at Apple Computers. Legend has it that Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and former CEO, decided to take a calligraphy class to learn about serif and sans-serif typefaces, varying the space between different letter combinations, and what makes typography so great. He thought it was beautiful and fascinating. At the time, it had no practical application in his life. But 10 years later, when he was working on the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to him, and he integrated it into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If he hadn’t taken that single class in college, the history of Apple, and computers in general, may have gone a different direction.
The fourth P is people, and this too is very important. Choose carefully the company you keep. Surround yourself with people that challenge you in a positive way and bring out the best in you, not those who drag you down and distract you from achieving your goals and moving forward. A young man once told me that it is so easy to get into trouble, but so hard to get out of it. I can tell you from experience that you are going to meet people from all walks of life with different backgrounds and interests. Expand your horizons, but, at the same time stay true to the values your parents have instilled in you and remember what you learned at GIA about humility and service to others.
Lastly, I would like to make reference to the outstanding spring production of The Wizard of Oz. In particular, I applaud the school for taking the right position on intellectual property rights and respecting creativity. Over the rainbow are unlimited opportunities for all of you, whether you are going to college or into military service. Go out there and do great things!
Thank you and congratulations once again to all the graduates and their families.