Some Admiral Advice
A Reason To Smile
An unwritten rule for giving a commencement address is acknowledging that few of the graduates will remember what is said.
It’s the old Abraham Lincoln trick of “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.” That was of course from the now-immortal Gettysburg Address. There are probably no commencement speeches that measure up to that speech’s eloquence (or its brevity). But that does not mean all graduation speeches are soon forgotten.
Take Admiral William H. McRaven’s 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin. From the number of YouTube views and the heartfelt comments from people who say they are struggling and return to the speech often for inspiration, this is one commencement address that clearly left a mark, in a good way.
Admiral McRaven uses his experience training to be a Navy SEAL to outline general lessons for life. His speech is expansive, inclusive, and hopeful. This is a man who served his nation at great personal risk and sacrifice. He led the unit that killed Osama bin Laden.
More recently, he has spoken up to challenge the abuses of the previous president. At a speech in 2017 at the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication, Admiral McRaven said that Trump’s attacks on the press “may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime." In another instance, he wrote in The Washington Post that Trump’s actions “have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation."
That Admiral McRaven grew up in Texas and majored in journalism are two more credits to his character.
As we all wonder and worry about the future, we can find reason for optimism and a smile in the stirring words of a decorated admiral speaking to a new generation of leaders on a Texas evening.
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