John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Commencement Speech: If I Were Giving One

Posted on June 1, 2012


I went to a high school commencement today.  If I were giving the speech, I would say this:


Congratulations!

Now, what are you going to do?

Life is short.  Have fun while you can.

Don’t get married before you are 30.

Don’t spend too much time doing stuff that you suck at.  For example, if you suck at golf, don’t play it.

And you know if you suck at it or not.

I don’t ice skate any more.  I suck at it.  End of story.

Geography is destiny.

If you want to work in movies, move to Hollywood.  If you want to work in politics, move to Washington.  If you want to work in finance, move to Wall Street.  If you are a computer geek, move to where the computer geeks are.

If you want to hang out at home the rest of your life, stay at home.

That will make your parents real happy.

If you got good grades and are in the National Honors Society, hey congratulations.  If you got Gentlemen C grades, you probably either be President of the United States or President of a major company.

John McCain graduated at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy.  George Bush was at best an average student.  Bill Gates dropped out of college.

Don’t get too caught up in your grades.

Listen and learn from your parents and your grandparents.  They aren’t always right, but they aren’t always wrong either.  Study them closely.  Because, one day, you will become them.

Never ever stop learning.   Never stop reinventing yourself.  Never get in a rut. And don’t think that you know it all.  Because you don’t. And if you do it  right, you never will.

Go forth in a general direction, but don’t worry about following the map too closely.  Life is what happens to you when you aren’t looking.

Take a moment and enjoy where you are in life today.  And do that every day.

When you are young, stretch out your arms and legs, breathe deep, and enjoy the fact that you have growing pains.  Think about the possibilities when you are fully grown.

When you are middle aged, stretch out your arms and legs, breathe deep and enjoy your aches and pains from hard labor.  Think about how fun it is to be where you are.

When you are old, stretch out your arms and legs, breathe deep and enjoy your creaky old bones, and rejoice at how far you have come.

Life is full of surprises, disappointments, thrills and curveballs.

Never be knocked off guard by the surprises.  Never let the disappointments keep you down.  Never let the thrills get you too high.  And never let the curveballs go by without taking a good swing.

Appreciate the fact that we all play our own roles in society.  Some of us are beautiful and some of us are not.  Some are skinny and some are fat. Some are smart and some are dumb. Some are good at math and some are great writers.

Be comfortable in your own role.  And if you aren’t comfortable, change.

But don’t sit around and complain about it.  Nobody likes a complainer.

Keep your friends door open.  Always be happy to meet new friends.

Keep your enemies door locked.   Try not to have too many enemies.  And pick them very carefully if you do.

Trust your instincts on people.  If something doesn’t seem quite right, it probably isn’t.

Listen to different kinds of music.  Music is magical.  Classical.  Country.  Hip-Hop. Rap.  Rock.  Listen to it all.  It will give you a sense of where we are as a society.

I envy you guys and I fear for you too.

My favorite line in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is when that old guy says “Youth is wasted on the young”

Don’t waste your youth.  Make the most of it.  Have fun.  Be positive.  And never stop learning.