Nevada State College Commencement Address

Nevada State College Commencement Address

Nevada State College Commencement Address


Several people have asked to see my Nevada State College Commencement Address. Here is the full speech, as well as some photos. I loved shaking hands with all of the proud, new graduates. It was definitely an evening to remember.

Graduates, Parents, Family and Friends, Faculty, Deans, Administrators…

When I first was asked to speak at this Commencement, I was really excited because I found out over 50% of NSC students are from culturally diverse backgrounds. I’m told that many of you are the first generation in your family to go to college. A lot of you are reinventing yourselves. You’ve had some life happen to you and you are starting a brand new chapter of your story.

I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be a happy ending. A college degree doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but it sure does make things easier if you know how to leverage it these three ways:

  1. Earning a degree shows that you can accomplish a goal. My degree is in Ecology and Environmental Sciences. I don’t use my Ecology degree as a consultant, but I use the skills I learned EVERY SINGLE DAY.
  2. Earning a degree shows that you are willing to work toward improving your skillset. Dedication to improvement! May each of you continue learning until your last breath.
  3. Earning a degree shows that you can solve complex social and intellectual problems. Anybody who can navigate the road from high school or GED to college graduate has proven that their stamina and their resolve cannot be diminished, even when adversity comes calling.

One of the things I talk about the most is empathy. While I’m proud that you have all demonstrated the discipline to get your degree in WHATEVER it is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a nurse, or a counselor, or a scientist. I’ve come to learn that the greatest tool you can have is tremendous empathy, and here’s why…

  • In my formative years of my life, I literally grew up in a one-room shack without plumbing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
  • I’m half Chinese, half White
  • I’ve been through sickness and divorce
  • I’ve been through self-sabotage, and winning, and losing, and succeeding, and  failing…

I have changed my life in ways I never would have DREAMED, just by focusing on strengthening my empathy skills.

I’ve found strength in empathy.

I’ve found love in empathy.

I’ve found hope in empathy.

I’ve found wealth in empathy.

I’ve found forgiveness in empathy.

If you are charting a course to become a nurse, or a vet or a doctor, for example, you are a person who is embracing empathy directly in their career.

Let’s be honest. For nurses, (which many of you will become), there is probably no greater group in our society in a highly stressful, woefully under-appreciated job. You will be on your feet for hours, days. You will see people at their worst and you will be expected to be at your best. You will watch people die. You will hold their hand while they miraculously recover, based on a small or maybe even a large role that you played. You will see things in your career that most people don’t see. You will get very little thanks. And you will never know how the story ends for many people who recover, and go on to continue their story. I will never know how your story continues from here. We can talk in clichés and pat ourselves on the back, and you SHOULD. You should be so proud of yourselves for your accomplishment today. But as you close your eyes this evening, AFTER the celebration, AFTER you have a moment to process your success, I want you to ask yourself: What’s next? Because everyone has a story! We are the author of our story. And that is what we are here to celebrate today. You’ve ALREADY begun to write the next chapter or your story.

Be excited!

Be proud!

This isn’t paint-by-numbers. Life is a choose-your-own-adventure! There are 7.5 billion different ways to live a human life, Class of 2017, so make yours the best!

Read the announcement on the NSC webpage by clicking here.