Speaking in Fancy Hats

So guess whom they asked to impart sage advice to impressionable Freshman students today – oh nobody important – ME, ME, it was ME they asked!! I don’t know what they were thinking either! But check it out in all its glory – velvet hats and double chins and all!

President Haas, Provost Davis, Distinguished Guests, Faculty and Staff, and all of you lovely, lovely students– HELLO CLASS OF 2019! My but you are a bunch of smart looking people!I’ve never spoken in front of 4000 people before – I thought I’d be nervous – but this is quite a thrill.

So, when I sat down to write this reflection – I went through all the things I’d like to talk about – wise words of wisdom I could impart – things I could say that would inspire you to excel – but everything sounded like a terrible Hallmark greeting card.

Like “reach for the stars” or “always give 110%” – That last one can I say, as an engineer, is quantifiably impossible!

So instead of unhelpful platitudes, I’d like to talk about something really important- wait for it – your investment portfolio!

Don’t all get excited at once – you don’t have an investment portfolio yet – or at least most of you don’t have one.

Today you are investing in the MOST VALUABLE thing you own –and I don’t care what kind of fancy car you drive – it’s the 1 square foot of real estate between your ears!

There are things that you can do that will hurt your investment – and if you don’t know those by now – I’m certainly not going to mention them here and give you any ideas. I’m talking to you 4 am Call of Duty warriors – you know who you are!

But there are also things you can do that will grow your investment like:

  • study, and go to your professor’s office hours – because as that poet Vanilla Ice said so eloquently – “if you gotta problem, yo, I’ll solve it”,
  • and study, and make good friends,
  • and study, and learn to correctly use big words like “soliloquy” and “jurisprudence”
  • and study, and get involved with campus activities,
  • and study, and take classes that broaden your mind and your understanding
  • and study, and read good books,
  • and study, and marvel at the beauty of a solved differential equation,
  • and study, and fall in love and then fall out of love and then fall in love again,
  • and study, and try new things and fail at them and get back up to try again
  • and study, and soak up knowledge like parched thirsty camels in a desert
  • and –all together now—study. [Well, I was going to say “stay hydrated”, but study works as well]

And while you’re doing all this studying to grow your brain – don’t forget about your heart as well.

Be kind to everyone and treat them with respect. You don’t have to agree with everyone you meet, you don’t even have to like them – but learn the fine art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

And be kind to yourself – don’t beat yourself up too hard, – just enough to keep you motivated.

So this investment is yours to do with as you choose and it’s a big risk. But I’d bet on you in a heartbeat.

And think of all the people who are betting on you – no pressure – but the list is long. Your family and friends, and everyone sitting up here on stage – the faculty and staff – in our fancy polyester togs – we look like a convention at Hogwarts.

Know that we are all betting on you. Because we’d like to retire and let you run the world for a bit.

So enjoy this last weekend because come Monday – break’s over – it’s time to get back to work!

Thank you all and Welcome to Grand Valley! Go Lakers!



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