Former Cone Health CEO Tim Rice spoke to 2,400 freshly minted graduates of UNCG at the Greensboro Coliseum May 8, 2015.

The text of his Dr. Seuss themed address:

 

(Seuss) Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

What familiar and exciting words written by the legendary Dr. Seuss, in: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

Chancellor Dunn, faculty and staff , guests, and most importantly, graduates of the Class of 2015, it is with great honor that I am before you today.

Please allow me to extend my personal congratulations to each of you. I would also like to express my appreciation to your families, to your faculty, and to the administration, all who have contributed to your success. On their behalf I remind you that when success comes to one of you in the future, it comes to all of us.

I have three messages to convey beyond a sincere congratulations:
1) Never forget those who helped mold you
2) Set your sights far , high and wide
3) Be comfortable with your harshest critic – YOU.

Let’s start: In a moment I’m going to ask you to close your eyes. I want you to think for a moment about someone who made a big difference in your lives – anyone. Now, I want everyone to close your eyes – yes you, parents, you grandparents, you faculty, you Chancellor. Are your eyes closed? Now visualize a person that made a difference in your life – that helped get you to where you are today. Someone that molded you – pushed you to heights you did not realize were possible.

OK – you can peek now.

As I do that exercise, the first person that comes to my mind is Bernice Snyder. She was my 6th grade teacher. She was a little white-haired spinster lady – looked mean as a snake. I grew up in a small town – there were six different teachers I could have had for sixth grade – and I had her. Also, I was the 5th of our family to have her – I couldn’t believe my bad luck. The first week of class, she put me in the book closet so I couldn’t continue to be disruptive – I spent 2 weeks in this closet – the door open, so I could see and hear her – but no one in the class. She demanded excellence – no excuses. She pushed me like I had never been pushed. When we had the track meet against the other classes, we had the fastest four boys together ready to compete in a relay– but she made us take the fastest boy and the slowest boy, and the next fastest boy and the next slowest boy. Wow – were we mad. Was she frustrating. And, was she good! Well, when I close MY eyes and think of someone who has made a difference, Miss Snyder is on the top of my list – I came to love that lady. I can see her to this date. (I also later found out that my mother went to her the summer before and asked her to take me on as a challenge!!) I hope Miss Snyder, would be proud of me now. To this day, I’m still driven by the thought of meeting her high standards.

What is my point? How many others here today, when they are asked to reflect on someone who made a big difference in their lives, visualizes a teacher, a faculty member, a family member, or someone else who served in this sort of role? Many of you – I am sure. So, let me lead a round of applause from the graduates for the faculty and staff of UNCG and for your family members – I KNOW you have had a profound impact on the graduates before us today.

(Seuss) You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You have so many choices ahead of you . . . I suggest that you choose to spend your life doing something you really care about. Education is obviously very important to each of you. Some of you attend UNCG from China, Japan, South Korea, Iran and the list goes on … others of you commute from communities across the state. You may be balancing full-time or part-time jobs, work, parenthood and college coursework. Take Symphony Oxendine who began pursuing her doctorate here while she had two children under the age of 2 AND she commuted from Lumberton. Before she enrolled, she called a family meeting to ask her relatives for support in balancing it all. Today, she is receiving her PhD and is proud to be among less than 1 percent of all doctoral degree recipients who are Native American.

I encourage you to use the most of the knowledge you’ll gain in college, to make the most of your potential. Every person here has faith in your abilities – choose to use those abilities to make a difference whether it’s in the business world, sports, raising a family, in the arts, charity, education, or politics. And if you’re doing something that you are passionate about, you’ll demand greatness of yourself. Choose to do something you really care about!Another of your classmates, Caltrin Bellavance, is a dancer who is receving her bachelor’s of fine arts today. She said she will use her degree to “continue to reach for more every day.” Choose to do something you really care about!

(Seuss) You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights. . .
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

As you are venturing to new heights with great accomplishments, always remember to respect all people on the way up. Not just your boss or colleagues, but the wait staff, the janitors, the toll attendants. Pay attention as to how you treat people. How you treat people is a direct reflection of who you are. But, I’m not that worried about how this class treats people – this generation consistently demonstrates its character by volunteering in many ways to help others and to make our world a better place. Just listen to some of the things your classmates are doing:

Stephanie Faulk founded a chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness while a student here. As she put it, “I wanted to be the change I wished to see. I wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem. I was taught to leave the game better than I found it. And I’m leaving UNCG knowing it’s in a better condition than when I came.”

Patrick Waddel, who will receive his bachelor’s in public health education, works hard to beat the odds every day. As Dean Celia Hooper put it, he uses his wheelchair to “roll over the expectations others place on him! He has helped improve the environment for ALL – not just students who are differently-abled.”

Katherine Davis, graduating with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, is working to create childcare centers that address and prevent childhood obesity.

At this point, in looking at this class, we don’t know who is going to do what – some have concrete plans, and others do not. But you will be amazed at your five and ten-year reunions when you see what you have started to accomplish. The academic overachiever in this room may become the PeaceCorps volunteer who changes a villager’s life. We probably have future famous actors or musicians among us. In this room are people who will discover major scientific breakthroughs! The cynic in the room may become the editor of the Washington Post and write about one of you as a major elected official.

Set your sights far, high and wide.

So as you start the next chapter,
(Dr. Seuss) I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true – that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you . . . And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun.
Unslumping yourself is not easily done.

Misfortune – Own it. Things will go awry, and you will at times be close to feeling like an outright failure. If you don’t experience an occasional disappointment, it demonstrates that you’re not setting your goals high enough. Difficult days will be a part of your future – whether it’s the presentation at your job that you’re not fully prepared for, your family member’s funeral,, or not getting that ideal job right away. And yes, my character has been built more from the bumps in the road than from the times of smooth sailing.

When I think of times that I would be proud to say I was a leader, they most often are the times that tried my ethics or my values. Or, I recall times when I had personal issues….for instance, I didn’t get the promotion I thought I should get. My first reaction was to sulk, to blame others…not realizing I was the problem They were the times where I needed to look far within myself….to pull on those internal resources. These are the times when you can be crushed, or you can use the experience to grow.

During these less than stellar times of life, hang onto your courage. Maintain your moral compass.

(Dr. Seuss) All alone! Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance – you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.

There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
To prove I read more than just Dr. Seuss – let me share a poem written 1934.

“The Guy in the Glass”
When you get what you want in your struggle for self,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.
For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who’s judgment upon you must pass.
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end.
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and steal a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

So: Be comfortable with answering to one of the harshest of critics – yourself.
(Dr. Seuss) With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)

1) Never forget those who helped mold you
2) Set your sights far , high and wide
3) Be comfortable with your harshest critic – YOU.

Franklin Roosevelt said there are three requirements for a good speech. “Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.” I have tried to fulfill the first two this morning and I am now going to do the third.

Thank you for the honor of being with you on this memorable day. Congratulations to each of you.
So… be your name Oxendine, Dixon or Lee,
Castillo, Hoover, McGee
Bellavance, Tran or LaVay
Waddell, Lowery or O’Shay…
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So. . . get on your way!

Graduates of the class of 2015,
(He took his hat off) . . . . My hat is off to all of you!
Congratulations.