Reflections On A Magical Commencement Weekend At Mercyhurst

What messages do college graduates want to hear in a commencement speech? Well… just ask them! Which is what I did when preparing to deliver the graduation address to the Class of 2019 at Mercyhurst University. The many students I interviewed overwhelmingly requested lessons from “the real world”—what they are likely to encounter as they leave the familiarity of campus life. And so that’s what I told them…

My speech title, “Climbing the Second Mountain,” is a reference to the central metaphor in New York Times columnist David Brooks’ new book. The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.) I shared with the graduates the importance—and challenge—of balancing “external” successes, such as getting established and making your mark, with the “internal” successes of greater purpose and interdependence. It can be hard work to find that balance… and then to maintain it. It requires honest self-reflection and discipline. But when this course-correction capability is honed through adaptability, resilience and gratitude, it creates the elegance of fulfillment—where one builds not only a career, but also a life. That’s why I urge young people to adopt this reflective practice early in their professional lives.

Anticipating Change, Adapting To Disruption

As a complement to my “Second Mountain” theme, I urged graduates to recognize the disruptive environments that will shape their future—regardless of the industry they join.

“Disruption is the new norm. Research shows that employees who adapt to rapidly changing environments with agility, and manage changing circumstances are the ones that remain most relevant in these turbulent times. I’m not saying it’s easy to do. I am saying it’s ESSENTIAL to do.”

Memorable Days at Mercyhurst University

My days among the Mercyhurst community left a deep impression on me. In dozens of interactions with students, faculty, administration, and alums, I gained a deep appreciation for the values that define this impressive institution. Again and again I heard the word “service”—and, more importantly, I saw how these commitments to service are lived, not just spoken, at Mercyhurst University.

Thank you, @MercyhurstU, for your warm welcome—and for the privilege of getting to know so many of you. I’m already looking forward to my next visit. Until then… Carpe Diem!