The Day After
Adapted from the May 8, 2016, OWU Commencement Address by Gregory L. Moore ’76
Class of 2016, these past 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.
So let’s talk about The Day After.
Going forward, 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. Choose your mentors carefully 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.
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’re falling down a lot, that means you’re 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’re headed. I recommend establishing goals in five-year intervals. For example, you might start out saying I want to see some of Europe—or save 10 percent of what I earn and buy a small house. Not bad goals by the way. Be rigorous in making your dreams happen.
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 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!
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 is the cliché that America loves a comeback story. That might be true in sports.
But my experience is we live in a pretty unforgiving world.
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.
Let me close with one last personal story.
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. I thought you graduated from high school and during the summer applied to the college you wanted to attend.
When I learned the truth at the end of the year, panicked, I ran down to the guidance office and, of course, everybody was busy. 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 called an associate director of admissions at Ohio Wesleyan. 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 happy to get me. 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 did not choose Ohio Wesleyan; Ohio Wesleyan chose me.
That guidance counselor 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, we reconnected, and I asked her how I could repay her for all she did for me. She simply said come to Beachwood and talk to my kids. I did, but that seemed hardly enough.
Last year, I was inducted into a college hall of excellence in Columbus and nothing pleased me more than having Richard Payne and Carolyn Beeler there 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. How you travel it is as important as what you achieve.