HIGH POINT, N.C., May 3, 2014 – General Colin Powell, former secretary of state, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and national security advisor, addressed nearly 900 graduates and a crowd of more than 10,000 people in attendance at High Point University’s Commencement Ceremony with a powerful message full of thoughtful and memorable words of wisdom. Below are highlights from his speech.
The ceremony was broadcast live on ABC News’ website, and Powell was named by CNN as the No. 5 commencement speaker across the country in its list of top 50 commencement speakers of 2014.
Top highlights from Powell’s speech include:
- “Find that which you love doing and that which you do well. When you put those two together, you have put into place the roadmap for a successful and satisfying life.”
- “We complain a lot today about politics and politicians and often for good reason. But we can’t sit around waiting for superman or superwoman to come in 2014 or 2016. We the people are the supermen and the superwomen. We are the deciders.”
- “As you go through life, listen to the other side. Have your eyes and your ears and your heart open to counterviews so we can get back what makes this country great in the political sense – the ability to compromise with each other and not just freeze ourselves on a spectrum of political desire from the right or from the left.”
- “Make sure you share the talent and the time and the treasure you have with others who are in greater need than you.”
- “If you want to save the world, start by saving just one kid. That’s what it’s all about.”
- “As you move on into life, do what you can to reach down, back and across to help a young person stay in school, to help a young person believe, to help a young person to a brighter future.”
- “Don’t stand on the sidelines complaining and moaning; speak out and vote. If you’re going to be a responsible citizen in this country, get qualified and make sure that you get registered and vote every single chance you get.”
- “If you don’t like what your elected representatives are doing, vote them out. If you do like what they are doing, then vote them in.”
- “We are still the unique place that inspires the rest of the world, so never, never sell America short.”
- “Go forth and raise strong families remembering that all you can ever leave behind is your reputation, your good works and your children for the next generation.”
- “Let your dreams be your only limitation.”
Other unique HPU Commencement highlights:
- As senior Matt Jakubowski, president of the Class of 2014, delivered his graduation speech, he took what is possibly one of the world’s largest “selfies” on stage with his entire senior class.
- As is tradition at HPU, a bald eagle soared over the graduates at the end of the ceremony to symbolize the ideals of free enterprise, independence and the ability to pursue new opportunities in America.
- Numerous graduating seniors are headed into full-time careers or graduate and professional schools in an array of fields. Companies where seniors will be working include Lenovo, Office Depot Corporate Headquarters, MathWorks, the Peace Corps, Oracle, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Yelp!, VMTurbo, Wildfire LLC, Chaney Enterprises, Amstaz, Bernhardt Furniture, JetBlue Airways Corp. and many more.
About Gen. Colin Powell:
For more than 50 years, General Colin L. Powell has devoted his life to public service. Having held senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations, Powell’s deep commitment to democratic values and freedom has been felt throughout the world.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was born in Harlem and was raised in the South Bronx. He attended the City College of New York where he earned a Bachelor of Science in geology. He also joined the ROTC program and CCNY, where he discovered his calling and launched his military career. He received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in 1958, and went on to serve in the United States Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of four-star general.
From 1987-1989, Powell served as President Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor. He served from 1989-1993 as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. He was not only the youngest officer and first ROTC graduate to ever serve in the position, but also was the first African-American to do so.
Every year, High Point University makes a special effort to bring inspiring national and international speakers to campus. Past Commencement speakers at HPU have included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak; Former First Lady Laura Bush; Chairman of the Board and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company Muhtar Kent; NASA Astronaut Dr. Buzz Aldrin; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Dr. Bill Cosby; Queen Noor of Jordan; and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.