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Archer Center Graduation

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Thank you, Chairman Archer, for being part of this important ceremony – and more so for conceiving of and creating this program and supporting it for so many years.

I know this is a proud day for you, and the future accomplishments of today’s graduates add to your rich legacy of service to Texas, and the nation.

It’s also a proud day for Katie and Team Archer, all of whom are so committed to this outstanding program and so key to its success.  To them, I say thank you, and I know days like today are so affirming to all of you.   And thank you to Regent Perez, for your commitment to the program and your strong support. 

I wish I had an opportunity, as I have with previous classes, to spend time with you in person.  This has been one of the hardest things to get used to in 2020, and I know we’re all hopeful that we get back to a sense of normalcy in travel, meetings, meals together, and in person classes—and graduation ceremonies--as soon as possible.  

But since we want to make this virtual ceremony have the feel and trappings of a typical graduation event, I’m going to offer unsolicited advice to the graduates!  I liked something I saw on Twitter on “advice to my younger self,” and this is my short list:

  • Read more.   I’m sure most of you don’t know who Charlie Munger is.  He is Warren Buffett’s long-time partner and he’s a very smart guy.  He said “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time.  None, zero.”
  • Write more.   You all know this, but writing is part of the discipline of organizing and developing your thinking; it’s not something done after you’ve done your thinking; it’s a necessary part of it.   I just interviewed Matthew McConaughey about his new book; a very good book in part because he was able to rely on a journal he’d kept since he was a UT student.   If you do the same thing, I guarantee you’ll be grateful later. 
  • Practice public speaking.   I know you’re all pretty good at this, but in the new world of so much work online – where what you say is highlighted and, if anything, takes on more significance – being able to effectively articulate what you’re thinking is more important than ever.   This is more difficult on Zoom, and if you’re good at it you’ll have an advantage. 
  • Value your friendships.  I’m sure this period of pandemic and isolation and weirdness has made clear that along with family, it’s your friendships that will sustain you through challenging times.
  • Find a mentor.  Or better yet, mentors.  I like to think of it as a personal board of directors; a group – to which I’m always adding people – that I go to for advice, grounding, and reassurance.   It’s been enormously valuable through much of my career, and I only wish I had thought about it and done it earlier. 

I don’t have to tell you you’re graduating at a unique time.  I believe the upside – yes, there is an upside – is that you have become more resilient and there are perhaps more opportunities than ever before for adaptable, optimistic, and passionate graduates to make their mark.

We are in a state of accelerated change unlike anything we’ve seen in my lifetime.  On any number of fronts, we’ve seen years’ worth of changes in just a few months.  And out of crisis, rapid change, dislocation and challenge, innovation always emerges, and this is no exception.

I assume each of you became an Archer Fellow because you want to tackle big challenges, and help solve big problems. 

I believe we’re at a moment when the problems you’re most interested in – whether they’re in public health, politics, social justice, income inequality, climate and sustainability, or anything else – are ripe for new energy and passion and ideas.  Take advantage of this time of change and your preparation for it. 

You are now part of a very elite group of 1,500 Archer Fellow alumni doing great things all over the world.  We expect nothing less from all of you.

Thank you for representing your institution, the UT System, and the state of Texas so well.

Best of luck, and happy graduation!