May 2015 Graduation Address by Gary Shorb

Dr. Rudd, faculty, guests and members of the graduating class of 2015. It is an honor to be here and have the privilege of addressing you today. It is especially meaningful as an alumnus of this wonderful University and someone who knows exactly what it feels liked to be sitting where you are today. With that in mind, I will be brief and give you two pieces of advice.

The New York Times reported two weeks ago the results of 2 recent studies that state as college graduates your unemployment risk is less that 2 percent. The pay gap between college graduates and everyone else is at an all-time high – so these are not menial jobs. You are also healthier, happier, more likely to remain married, more likely to be engaged parents and more likely to be engaged citizens.

With those "likely-hoods" going for you, I first advise you to follow your passion. Don't try to lead someone else's life or do something that you do not love. Follow your heart.

When I was about 30 years old, I took a job with the largest corporation in America. It had great pay, great perks and what appeared to be a wonderful opportunity. After about three months, I came to the realization that I was bored and as I looked at one, two or three levels above me I had little or no interest in those jobs. I was miserable but felt I needed to stick with it. Fortunately, my wife, best friend and closest advisor for almost 45 years now saw an ad in the Commercial Appeal and strongly encouraged me to apply. It was with the then City of Memphis Hospital (now Regional One) which had been in the news only the year before as being almost bankrupt. I interviewed and found it to be a perfect fit – a place with a mission I could relate to and motivated to fulfill. I left the stability of a huge, financially secure organization, took a cut in pay and benefits, took a risk -- and it was the best move of my life. I was afraid of uncertainty but my inner voice and intuition told me it was the right move. Follow your passion.

Second, the research I referred to earlier said all of you are likely to be good corporate citizens. I ask you today to do that very consciously. Get involved in your communities, volunteer, give back, mentor. We have many challenges as a nation, a state or a city that can only be solved through collective impact. Collective impact only happens with the individual involvement of all citizens. A very important part of that engagement is voting and being a part of the political process. I know that it is easy to be cynical about politics and politicians. But the fact is, the decisions they make on a national, state or local level have huge implications for all of us. Their actions impact our safety, the quality of roads and transportation, education – the amount of money schools like our own University gets as well as important social justice issues like health insurance for all citizens – I was in Nashville recently advocating for the passage of Insure Tennessee – a bill that would expand healthcare coverage to over 250,000 Tennesseans. One legislative representative I was talking to said that he would support the bill but he said, "You need to understand my reality, I have 50,000 votes in my district – 12,000 of them vote and 6,000 hate Obamacare and they will come after me if I vote against their interests." So 6,000 represent the other 44,000 due primarily to poor voter turnout. On an average, locally we get a 30-40% voter turnout when it needs to be 75% or more. Get involved – it is too important to our future not to.

The famous lawyer and political leader William Jennings Bryan said,

"Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."

Follow your passion as you determine your career destiny and use your skills to help shape the destiny of your community. The result will be a more fulfilling and enjoyable life.

Congratulations, good luck and God bless.