May is one of the best times of the year at our university. The semester winds down on our four campuses, finals week comes and goes. But most important, it's commencement season.
For graduates, it's a time to savor the feeling of accomplishment and to turn the page to the next chapter of their lives. For their families and friends, it's a time to be proud. For faculty and staff, and for me in particular, it's a wonderful reminder of why we're here.
I have attended nearly 40 commencement ceremonies since becoming CU's president. Add to that another 20 or so from my previous involvements with higher education. You would think that with that many under my belt, commencement would get tiresome. Yet it's just the opposite. I am energized by the ceremony that marks the end of one journey in so many lives, and excited to see our latest alumni take their first steps on the road ahead.
As president, I provide brief remarks at each CU commencement ceremony. I understand the value of brevity in my talk and don't want to detract from some of the great commencement speakers we have had over the years (including the wonderful actress Julie Andrews, who spoke at this year's ceremony on our Boulder campus). Yet I also want to share with graduates some of the thoughts that have helped me throughout my life.
I tell graduates to listen to others and make sure you hear all sides of the story. Your ideas may not be the best.
You can accomplish a lot more if you don't care who gets credit. In every decision, watch for unintended consequences. Stay focused on what is important and finish what you start.
If you make a mistake or a bad decision, admit it, apologize, fix it as fast as you can and move on.
When you make an agreement, make sure both sides are happy. Don't always try to get the advantage.
Seize opportunities as they come along. If you have a life plan, don't miss opportunities that may not fit exactly in your plan.
People want leaders – if you see a void, fill it. When you become a leader, be inclusive and open. Try to listen more than you talk. Hire great, trustworthy people and work as a team. Treat everyone with respect. Always lead by example and do the right thing no matter how tough.
Be generous with your time and, when possible, with your money. And be sure to remember your alma mater.
Contribute to your community, volunteer for projects you care about. You will do good and it will make you feel really good.
I believe strongly in each of these principles, which have helped guide me since my own graduation from CU-Boulder in 1964. But perhaps the most important thing I share with graduates comes at the end of my talk.
I tell them that in the end, your honesty, your word, your reputation and your integrity are all that you have – don't lose them.
And don't forget, the harder you work, the luckier you'll get.
Congratulations to the class of 2013.
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