President's Commencement Address
August 2011

Good job!

You did well. You turned the tassel, walked across the stage, and made your family and friends smile.

Another page for the scrapbook of your life …

You have done a good job! Not only here today, in this ceremony, but also over the last several years. You opened your books. You participated in your labs. You finished your projects … passed your tests … completed your courses. Now, you have earned your degree.

Good job! Well done!

Today, you heard the applause … and I hope the excitement and energy - the "buzz" - from this celebration stays alive at least through the rest of the weekend.

But, we all know that days with applause are pretty rare for most of us.

When no one is clapping – and no one is taking photos for the scrapbook of your life – how will you know if you are doing a good job?

When there is no test to study for … no grades to earn … what measure will you use to determine whether or not you are doing a good job in your life?

What is a "good job" anyway?

Often, when we ask why people go to college – they say it is because they want to "get a good job".

How do you define a "good job"? What does that mean to you?

Each of us must define that term for ourselves. Success means different things to different people. There is no one "right way" to define it.

But, I would like to suggest to you today that "a good job" is one that gives you a sense of pride … and purpose … and connection to the world around you.

A good job is one that gives you the opportunity to use your talents, your knowledge, and your skills to make life better – not only for yourself, but also for others.

You see, doing a good job often means doing "good" for someone else. You might enjoy earning a good paycheck. But your real sense of accomplishment will come from knowing you are making a difference in the life of someone else.

The voice of wisdom known as "anonymous" states it very simply: "To the world you may be just one person; but to one person you may be the world."

What you do with your degree will matter – in your family, in your workplace, and in your community. It will make a difference to your classmates and your college family.

Today, you become part of the Penn College Alumni Association and we look forward to staying connected with you throughout your lifetime. We will welcome you back to campus for events and activities. We will report on your successes and share your experiences with students that will come after you – so you can inspire them to achieve their dreams.

What you do – and what you share with others (including your Penn College family) – will make a difference.

Make the most of every opportunity to do "a good job" and to make a positive impact on the people around you.

Today, you enter a new phase of your life. As a college graduate, you are in a very small minority of the world's population.

Less than seven percent of the world's people have earned a college degree. In the United States – where we have greater access to higher education than many nations in the world – only 28 percent of the population have earned a college degree.

Take a minute and let that fact sink in.

You may not have realized it until this moment, but you are in a very privileged group. You have what millions of others can only dream of – a college education.

You have earned your degree. You have earned it with the help of your family, your faculty, and the public, which supports education through taxation and donation.

You worked hard to earn your degree. You sacrificed and others sacrificed to get you to this point in your life.

But, this is not the end of your effort. Now, it becomes your responsibility to put your degree to work … to do "a good job" in the world. You will not hear applause every day. You will not earn a grade to let you know if you have passed or failed. But you will know you've done "a good job" when you see your life influencing others in a positive way.

Remember, a few years ago, before you entered college, you had some vague idea of what you wanted to be.

Your idea may have evolved a bit since then. You've listened to new ideas. You've learned new skills. You know a bit more about the world and about yourself.

Now, it's time now to accomplish what you started dreaming about all those years ago.

The author Maya Angelou said: "Nothing will work unless you do."

I often think of that statement when I hear people worrying and complaining about the state of our world.

"Nothing will work unless you do."

Opportunities come to those who get to work.

I don't mean that people can't fall on hard times. We do. Anyone can experience a downfall.

But over the course of my life, I've come to believe that those who are willing to face the challenges of their lives will prevail. Their hard times will turn around because they persist. They keep trying until they realize their dreams.

"Nothing will work unless you do."

You are ready to go to work. I know you are.

You are going to get a good job and you are going to do a good job – because you are going to make up your mind to do so. You are going to put forth your best effort to listen, to learn, and to respond with all your knowledge and your skills. You will be ready when each new opportunity presents itself to you.

When I graduated with my first degree – an associate's degree in dental hygiene – I had an idea of what I wanted to be: a hygienist working in a dentist's office. I became a hygienist and I loved my job.

Then, I dreamed of becoming a teacher. I worked toward that dream. I became a teacher. It was rewarding to have an impact on the lives of my students, so I decided to continue my education and to dream a bigger dream.

And as I look at you today – the Class of 2011 – I am so glad that I allowed my dreams to grow over the years and that I did the work required to make my dreams a reality.

The ancient philosopher Lao Tzu said, "When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."

The dreams we achieve always seem to lead us to bigger dreams. Getting a "good job" and doing a "good job" should encourage us to want to do even more.

Remember this when you face those moments - when it seems too hard to do the work that is required to realize your dreams.

You will – no doubt – remember a few mornings when you didn't really feel like getting out of bed and going to class. You will remember the teachers who were just too tough … the papers that seemed too difficult to write … the project partners who failed to complete their part of the assignment.

You had a good excuse. But, you did not give up.

Aren't you glad today that you didn't? "

Nothing will work unless you do."

Take the lessons you have learned and keep applying them – day after day, week after week, year after year.

You will be amazed at what you become.

The lyrics of a song that was popular a few years ago told us: "Today is where your book begins … the rest is still unwritten."

With each action you take … you write your own life story. Make it a life you want to remember … a life you want others to remember.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your family and friends. Do it for the lives lost – like that of your classmate, Tracy Garis. Do it for all the people of the world who will never have a chance to earn a college degree.

Do a "good job"… and you will always have the good fortune of having a good job to do.

Congratulations Class of 2011 – our new Penn College alumni.

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