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This Year’s Graduation Address


This is yet another year that I haven’t been asked to address graduating students. That’s OK since I’ve never been asked, but I have been writing these pseudo speeches since 2015 and have distributed reprints to over 2500 students. Here is what I would say if invited.

This is yet another year that I haven’t been asked to address graduating students. That’s OK since I’ve never been asked, but I have been writing these pseudo speeches since 2015 and have distributed reprints to over 2500 students. Here is what I would say if invited.

Things sometimes stink. School this past year has not been the experience many of you signed up for and excitedly anticipated. I am sure that stunk for almost all of you. However, as you will find out sometimes good comes out of adversity. This past year was the adversity. You can now use this as a defining moment in your life, or a bump that catapults you forward.

Too many people for too many reasons pick a “feel sorry” moment and use that as an anchor which keeps them from moving forward. Much has happened in the past year that should be appreciated and used to move you forward. At some point, not now and probably not for a while, your store of knowledge of what you experienced can be appropriately applied to what you will confront and if you are not a dud, you will use this to solve problems, innovate, and become a leader.

Some of the benefits of the pandemic have been an acceleration of changes that were going to occur, but possibly not for many years. This includes the different way we work noting that virtual had already been the norm in many situations and its use has been increasing, especially at most of your colleges and universities, and at many businesses, but the pandemic accelerated it. This likewise has moved into medicine, professional and business consultations and all types and facets of business. Virtual engagements are less personal but more available and with much less travel and downtime and better casual dress and flextime management. It has also made the world smaller by bringing people quickly together via computer and smartphone screens. In many cases banking, money transfers and investing has primarily been taking place electronically. I miss going to movie theatres, but I can now watch almost any new movie on a smartphone or devise or an 80-inch television screen in my den. I save the driving time, the waiting time to buy or pick up the ticket and the 15-minute wait to spend $12 for a bag of popcorn and $10 for a soda (which always struck me as stupid since the wait has to discourage many people from making these purchases). Streaming has become a rapidly growing service and the subscription model had extended to many other services. The company that mows my lawn every week has me on a bundled subscription model and my credit card gets charged automatically. In five years this will almost be universal for most repetitive services.

Our buying habits have morphed into online purchases with next-day delivery being the norm. This has been growing on its own but the pandemic moved it up many years. Artificial intelligence and robotics are in the infancy stages. The first GPS’s for cars told you how to get somewhere. Today they anticipate how to get where you want to go and show you the best way with rerouting based on traffic patterns with estimated arrival times continuously being updated. Amazon uses every purchase and every search you ever made to send you suggestions of what you should buy. Because I downloaded a Kindle App on my laptop and use an Amazon.com credit card, I can get any book I want instantly downloaded with two clicks. Magic? Compared to a dozen years ago, Yes!. Compared to a dozen years from now? Kid stuff.

Nothing beats personal engagement in a classroom, an office or at a conference. But that is a myth that has already been shattered. My students used to get to class moments before I started and ran out as soon as it ended. If someone wanted to ask me a question, they texted me and I replied with a phone call. They didn’t even show up during my office hours. In the office, the most interaction was the line to make popcorn in the microwave. At a conference except for quick catch-up discussions between sessions, attendees had their own cliques or clients in that area, they had dinner with. The networking was waning long before the pandemic eliminated the opportunities.

Things changed and are changing. Get used to it. If you think changes will not be occurring and that when they do, they will be upsetting, then you just wasted your college education because you learned nothing. The issue for you is whether you will be part of the new or regretting the passing of the old. Will you wear the worst of the pandemic as a badge of justification for every obstacle you face or will you eagerly look forward to the obstacles you will confront as a challenge to overcome? Will you be a downer or a winner? Will you be one of the lagging troops or a leader?

I am not sure all of you would want to be a leader, but I am sure you all want to be successful, so use your pandemic experience as a recipe for success.

You are living in harried, sometimes scary but always exciting times. It’s up to you to choose. Make the right choice!

If you want a file with reprints of my prior graduation speech blogs, email me at GoodiesFromEd@withum.com and put as subject: Graduation speeches. No messages necessary.

If you have any tax, business, financial, leadership or management issues you want to discuss please do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com.

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