Graduation Welcome Address – May 15, 2010

The following is the graduation welcome address that I presented to students earning a Master of Arts or Master of Business Administration degree at Concordia University, St. Paul. I am graduating with a Master of Business Administration in a study that is focussed on Innovation and Leadership Development. The industry I studied was Social Technology. The speech follows below the fold.

Friends, family members, faculty, staff members, and fellow graduates, I am honored to stand before you this afternoon and welcome you to the Graduation Ceremony of 2010. On behalf of all the graduates here today, I would like to thank all the parents, spouses, family members, and friends who encouraged and supported us as we worked towards arriving at this day. I can imagine that there were many times when we seemed disconnected from daily lives as we concentrated on our studies. I am sure that my wife, Erin, is probably breathing a sigh of relief that she will no longer hear me read rough draft number three of what, in my mind, would become the greatest paper (or graduate welcome speech) as we attempt to relax on the weekends. I would especially like to thank the faculty members who worked with us in chat rooms, discussion boards, lectures, and conversations, each pushing us to elevate our studies, seek out our passions, and challenge us with new thinking. I would also like to thank them for their understanding of the rigors of carrying out a full time job on top of putting full time effort into our studies. Perhaps a discussion board posting was later than it should have been once or twice. I believe I speak for all the graduates today when I say that I sincerely appreciate the understanding that being active in our workplace enhances our learning. 

It is odd for me to be standing in front of you today. I completed my entire program online. I feel like this whole thing could be handled through a technology like a chat room, Skype, or Twitter. In holding true to the social technologies that brought me into this program and into community with my MBA cohort, I put a call out to my various communities to help share wisdom today. I asked my Twitter community to share words of wisdom with the hashtag “Grad10.” Here are a few of their thoughts: Chris Brogan, author of the New York Times bestseller Trust Agents said, “It’s fun thinking big and acting small. Makes it more about sharing”. Albert Marrugi, host The Marketer’s Edge, one of the longest running podcasts in the Twin Cities reminds us to call out the systemic problems we encounter, we have the best possible situation right now.  Thomas Knoll an employee of Zappos.com wanted to share: “Tell everyone about your dreams and passions. You never know who will be able to help you achieve them.” This does not end with me standing here welcoming you today. If there is one thing we have all learned in our various programs, there are points for participation. So now, I leave it up to you. This is an interactive event. Interact. Communicate. Make Connections, grow your communities and help grow the communities of others.  If you have advice and knowledge to share and you Twitter, Blog, Flickr, or share any sort of content online. Designate it with the hashtag “grad10.” Let’s see if we can watch the ripples of this graduation year change the world.

I believe that it is fitting that the theme for this academic year has been “The light shines in the darkness.” We have witnessed financial crises, natural disasters; we have read stories of unethical behavior and questionable business tactics. We all know individuals who have lost their jobs during this crisis. Although our retirement accounts and financial investments may have suffered, we have had the luxury of a worldwide classroom at a history making time in the world. We have had the opportunity to watch all that happens around us, analyze, and learn. On top of all of this, we have had the privilege to study at Concordia University, a university with a mission statement that calls us to thoughtful and informed living within the context of the Christian Gospel. As a result, we understand the human condition. We witness times that appear hopeless and yet, we can see the light in the darkness, the glimmer of hope that awaits us all. Our education in this place has given us an anchor in which to rest and remember in both booms and busts.

But enough about darkness! Today we celebrate the hope and light, both spiritually and educationally. Today we have proven that we have learned and now is the time for us to apply that knowledge. As we leave this place in our academic regalia we can look back on the work we have done and see the evidence of great teaching, the new skills learned, and the new passions we have uncovered. On Monday morning, we when walk into work we will carry with us the light. A light of knowledge and a light of ethical grounding that no darkness can overcome.