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A Worthy Commencement Speech For a Change

Normally I don’t find much value in commencement speeches. The speakers tend to be local politicians or celebrities and say the usual pap about starting out on a bold new adventure etc… But my daughter’s high school graduation was a little different. The commencement speaker was Congressman Albert Wynn [1](D-MD) and I was really dreading his talk. Wynn is a liberal Democrat and I even used to live in his district which was the result of a non-sensical gerrymander.

At first Wynn didin’t disappoint when he took a swipe at outsourcing and the war in Iraq. Then an amazing thing happened. He talked about work ethic and character. Let me quote from his speech. “Even if you have a college education or career training and get along with everyone, you must also have a strong work ethic to succeed.” He goes on “First be reliable. As Woody Allen said 80 percent of success is just showing up. Arrive early, leave late, and show that you are ready to move up the ladder.”  Read on.

Next he went on to comment about character. “Although I have talked about career success, my purpose is not to advise you on how to become wealthy.” “Despite your best efforts to prepare for setbacks, you will encounter unfairness, disappointment, heartbreak and yes failure. The important thing is to recover and never give up. Set backs are a test of character.” Lastly in terms of character, keep in mind the difference between right and wrong. Some of the smartest and wealthiest people in our country have fallen and gone to jail, because of greed, corruption and bad character.”

Wynn also spoke about personal responsibility, making a plan and understanding others. What makes this talk so remarakable in my view is that Wynn is a black Congressman speaking to a group of graduates that was 75% minority. He also hit pretty hard when briefly mentioning the death of a student at the school just a few days before the graduation ceremony saying the student made some bad decisions that ultimately cost him his life.

I hope Albert Wynn will keep up his campaign for personal responsibility, work ethics and character. Maybe he can convince his colleagues to do the same, but I wouldn’t bet on it. He certainly sounds more like Jesse Lee Petersen [2]than Jesse Jackson.