This past weekend, I attended my high school’s graduation and watched the seniors take their last steps across the patio they’d called home for a year. The commencement speaker, Clyde Tuggle, the Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer of Coca-Cola, had some interesting, if not wise, words to share. He started out giving us a bit of background on himself and his preparation for this talk. He said that he’d asked his children who warned him ”For the love of god dad, dont say anything weird…” And in light of that warning, he had another guideline for himself- he didn’t want to give another self-help commencement speech that gives a step by step process on how to properly seize the day.
Instead, we were treated to a speech on his journey from rising episcopal priest to soft drinks salesman. And to get there he said, it takes a calling. Not a booming message from God, but as a result of exploration, finding the true thing which you love doing. And that turns out to be the difficult part. For geniuses, it’s easy. Tuggle quoted the poet W.H. Auden, saying, “Geniuses are the luckiest of mortals. What they must do is what they want to do.” The merely brilliant and gifted ones must find their calling. How to do this you say? Tuggle answered, “With an open mind.” One must also put oneself in a position to strike when opportunity knocks. And education is in his mind necessary to find this calling, to be well prepared to grab up opportunities. But my question is, what qualifies as education? Must it be college?
Tuggle’s following remarks provided the impression that sometimes, the most memorable learning moments may not come from school, but from those around you sharing their experiences. He then proceeded to share with the graduates some of his mother’s words of advice, important and valuable things she taught him. He told the graduates to “Challenge the status quo, move outside programmed safe zones and turn into uncharted territory.” He said that his experiences have shown him the “cracks in a broken world which fill [people] with questions.” And he decided he wants answers.
Then he sent the students off with what were in my mind, pithy last words, again inspired by his mother. “College is the first step on biggest journey of your life,” he said. “Find time for productive mischief…
To everyone, Godspeed, and have a good summer. To the class of 2012, carpe diem .