Success begins at the most basic level, Admiral McRaven says at Texas commencement.
It’s been almost 37 years to the day that I graduated from UT.
I remember a lot of things about that day.
I remember I had throbbing headache from a party the night before. I remember I had a serious girlfriend, whom I later married—that’s important to remember by the way—and I remember that I was getting commissioned in the Navy that day.
But of all the things I remember, I don’t have a clue who the commencement speaker was that evening and I certainly don’t remember anything they said.
So…acknowledging that fact—if I can’t make this commencement speech memorable—I will at least try to make it short.
The University’s slogan is,
“What starts here changes the world.”
I have to admit—I kinda like it.
“What starts here changes the world.”
Tonight there are almost 8,000 students graduating from UT.
That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their life time.
That’s a lot of folks.
But, if every one of you changed the lives of just ten people—and each one of those folks changed the lives of another ten people—just ten—then in five generations—125 years—the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.
800 million people—think of it—over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world—8 billion people.
If you think it’s hard to change the lives of ten people—change their lives forever—you’re wrong.
I saw it happen every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A young Army officer makes a decision to go left instead of right down a road in Baghdad and the ten soldiers in his squad are saved from close-in ambush.
In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a non-commissioned officer from the Female Engagement Team senses something isn’t right and directs the infantry platoon away from a 500 pound IED, saving the lives of a dozen soldiers.
But, if you think about it, not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children yet unborn—were also saved. And their children’s children—were saved.
Generations were saved by one decision—by one person.
But changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.
So, what starts here can indeed change the world, but the question is…what will the world look like after you change it?
Well, I am confident that it will look much, much better, but if you will humor this old sailor for just a moment, I have a few suggestions that may help you on your way to a better a world.
And while these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform.
It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status.
Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward—changing ourselves and the world around us—will apply equally to all.
I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. But it all began when I left UT for Basic SEAL training in Coronado, California.
Basic SEAL training is six months of long torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.
It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.
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