“The Day After”
Gregory L. Moore ’76
2016 Ohio Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony
May 8, 2016
Good afternoon, Class of 2016!
Before I begin, I want to say Happy Mother's Day to the moms out there. I want to thank President Rock Jones and your class president for this invitation.
I also want to acknowledge the administration, faculty, staff, members of the Board of Trustees, any elected or public officials, parents, family, friends, and, of course, the students who are here this afternoon.
It is a great day to be a Bishop and to be back in Delaware.
In a way, it takes guts to invite me here today. In 2002, I had the pleasure of delivering the commencement address jointly with my wife, Nina Henderson Moore, a double Harvard graduate, movie producer, and entrepreneur.
We did the address together, but I knew folks were more interested in her than me. I came anyway. But I will never forget that it rained so hard we had to move the event into Branch Rickey, maybe for the first time, ever.
Then last year, I was here when one of my best friends, the noted author and journalist Wil Haygood, spoke to graduates from this very spot, and it rained again, chasing many of us into that building right over there. The graduates, predictably, stayed put. They were not about to run on the biggest day of their young lives. So here’s hoping we don’t have to test anyone’s resolve today with another downpour, including mine.
My classmates have been texting and emailing me since they learned I was the speaker, telling me that I better do a good job. No pressure.
Honestly, I am always happy to represent the Red and Black. I love Ohio Wesleyan because this place changed the trajectory of my life.
I had never heard of Ohio Wesleyan before I came here in 1972.
I was the first person in my family to ever go to college. I knew nothing about the application process and, in fact, missed out completely when the college recruiters came to my high school in January of that year.
I thought you graduated from high school and during the summer applied to the college you wanted to attend.
I remember a guidance counselor sending out a notice about the session and I thought to myself, I don’t need any guidance, let somebody else take my spot, and skipped the meetings.
A couple of months later, I was sitting in my honors English class, and students all around me were talking about which colleges they got into. I am going to Princeton; I’m going to Hampton; I’m going to Ohio University. Finally, I said to our valedictorian, uh, what are you all talking about?
She said, you remember when Ms. Watson asked you to come to that counseling session in January? I said yeah. She said that’s when the college recruiters came to talk to us about their school.
You know that doom music you hear at the movies? That was playing in my head.
I learned an important lesson that day. When offered help, take it. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Panicked, I ran down to the guidance office and, of course, everybody was busy. But there was a visiting group of counselors helping kids get gap financing to go to college. This one counselor couldn’t have been more than 24 and she called me over. I hurriedly explained my situation: that I had missed the recruiters, had not applied to a single school, and skipping college was not an option.
She got my financial materials together over a few days, did the calculations, and picked up the telephone. She called an associate director of admissions at Ohio Wesleyan University and with me sitting right there she talked about what a great student I was, how I had made a mistake, and that Ohio Wesleyan would be a good fit.
When she hung up, she told me I was invited to visit the campus. We did the formal application and a couple of months later, I was accepted here.
Forty years after graduating, I still get choked up by that story because I know I did not choose Ohio Wesleyan; Ohio Wesleyan chose me.
At OWU, I mopped floors and washed dishes in the old student union, now the Corns building; I worked for the student newspaper, The Transcript, and co-founded another called The Witness; I played intramural sports, organized protests on campus, learned to love jazz and Elton John, and made lifelong friends from all over the world.
I settled on journalism as a profession under the tutelage of the late Verne Edwards, and had a wonderful 40-year career. It all started right here for a kid who didn’t even know how to apply for college.
This is a place that makes dreams come true. One way or another, Ohio Wesleyan chose all of us and now we’re family.
So enjoy today. Before you drive off with your parents or friends, tell a few more tales about your exploits. Recall some of the great things you saw, learned, and did here, your favorite pranks and the A’s you got after pulling another all-nighter.
It was a heck of a dress rehearsal, wasn’t it?
Beginning tomorrow, you will be playing for keeps. I was able to recover from failing to show up for that important college recruiting session way back in 1972.
But when you wake up tomorrow, know that everything counts. No do-overs.
Woody Allen reportedly said showing up is 80 percent of life. I would flip that adage and suggest 20% of life is getting out of bed and having the strength to put one foot in front of the other to face whatever comes.
The other 80 percent is about the choices you make, how you live your life, and it is better when do it with dignity, integrity, supreme effort, and compassion.
Class of 2016, these last four years were a chance for us to see how we did as parents, what you remembered from what we tried to teach you; it was a chance for you to prove that you didn't need Mom and Dad telling you what to do. This diploma is evidence that we passed the tests.
The fact you are sitting here today is reason to cheer. You’ve faced more pressure than almost any generation.
Social media and other technological advances have created opportunities and minefields that were unimaginable a couple decades ago. We treasure the freedoms associated with the academy, and you enjoy a global reach. But say the wrong thing, share the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, or be in the wrong place, and it could have been a disaster. It is good you learned those lessons here. They will serve you well in the future.
So let’s talk about the Day After.
Starting tomorrow, Mommy and Daddy get a lot less credit and lot less blame for what you do. You are responsible for what happens from now on. You are in charge of putting the finishing touches on yourself. Choose your mentors carefully, my friends, and be intentional about what you want to emulate. The most successful people I know read a lot, drink very little, and take sleep seriously.
Be a good citizen of the world engaged with the issues of the day and not just focused on achieving personal wealth and power. Try to live a truly integrated life, with friends of different races and backgrounds.
Cultural competency in the decades ahead will be more important than any time in history.
We trust that the temptations you face will be tempered by your sense of right and wrong and that you will do something to improve humankind.
There are those who say the most important thing is not how many times you fall down in life but whether you get up.
Perseverance, of course, is important. But for my money, if you are falling down a lot, that means you are having a hard time moving forward.
It shouldn't be a question now of whether you can walk. It's a question of balance. That means doing things in moderation, making good decisions, and always weighing consequences before you act. You are going to hit walls, encounter obstacles, and stumble.
But the key is to stay on your feet and try not to go all the way down.
Goals are very important. Be as clear as you can about where you are headed. I recommend establishing goals in five-year intervals. For example, you might start out saying I want to see some of Europe, save 10 percent of what I earn, and buy a small house by the time I'm 28. Not bad goals, by the way.
Whatever your goals, be rigorous in making your dreams happen. If you meet someone that rocks your world? Share where you are headed and, if things are right, you should walk the rest of the road together. If you have to make a major diversion, you need to seriously rethink the moment.
I know you have heard this a lot, but it is true. Please take time to smell the roses. Don’t get so caught up in the race that you don’t enjoy the journey. It is easy to miss some great things along the way.
One of my favorite movie lines, and I cannot remember the flick, is, “Don’t live your life in the middle where in the end you are all alone.” I believe in collecting and cherishing people. They will be there for you when it matters.
You know what the three most powerful words are in the world?
Please and Thank You. Use them generously and watch doors open for you.
I recommend looking in the mirror every day. I mean really looking at yourself. Not just to primp and boost your ego! But do you like the person you see? I once had a successful young businessman say that if someone was across from him in a negotiation and was clearly out of his or her league, he would take advantage of them without a second thought. I thought to myself, what about the mercy rule?
In the end, you’ll have to figure out what you would do in situations like that. But I can tell you, karma is a real thing.
To the young men here, remember you have mothers and maybe sisters. Respect women and fight for them to be all they can be. It's been a Man's World for a long time. But that doesn't make it right.
To the young women here—and I have two young daughters—all I can say is demand respect and Girl Power!
Just a few more thoughts on a day when we are all thinking about the future.
I can’t emphasize this enough: There are no shortcuts in life. You get what you get by working hard and being honest. Lying and cheating to get over is the road to ruin.
You will be caught. That one mistake will follow you for the rest of your life. There's the cliché that America loves a comeback story. Well, that might be true in sports. But, in my experience, we live in a pretty unforgiving world. And that's worth remembering.
Finally, I want to urge you to make time for your friends and loved ones. The pace of life quickens as it gets more complicated.
Create memories with the important people in your life, especially the people you love in the crowd today. No matter who you become, don't forget who you have been and who helped you along the way.
So let me close with one last personal story that ties back to that guidance counselor I told you about early in this address. Her name is Carolyn Beeler and the associate director of admissions is Richard Payne. I remained in touch with him, but I had long lost track of her despite my best efforts.
About 13 years ago, a young OWU recruiter was visiting Beachwood High School inCleveland, and a counselor there noticed her name tag and asked whether she knew a former student who graduated many years ago.
She was talking about me.
The recruiter said yes, took Ms. Beeler’s card, and relayed the information to me. We reconnected soon after.
I asked her how I could repay her for all she did for me, and she simply said come to Beachwood and talk to my kids. I did, but that seemed hardly enough.
So last year, when I was inducted into a college Hall of Excellence in Columbus, nothing pleased me more than having Richard Payne and Carolyn Beeler in the audience so I could recognize them publicly for changing my life.
I’m here to tell you that acknowledging the people and institutions that contributed to your success is good for the soul.
The journey ahead will be exciting. But how you travel it, will be as important as what you achieve.
William Faulkner once said: Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
Class of 2016, the journey ahead is about continuous improvement. Reach high, and have a great life!