Gov. Terry McAuliffe
May 16, 2014
Thank you Dr. Steger for that kind introduction.
Let's Go HOKIES!!!
Dr. Steger, distinguished guests, Class of 2014, proud parents and loved ones sitting in the stands - It is an honor and a privilege to be with you here today in Lane Stadium.
This is a place of victory and overcoming obstacles. A place of triumph and success. And a place of greatness and respect. On and off the field, Virginia Tech has earned the respect of the nation and the world through its commitment to innovation, excellence in education and a culture in which every student can maximize his or her potential.
Virginia Tech graduates are leading the way in industries and disciplines of all sorts because of the education and values that this university instills in its students every single day.
I want to commend the leadership and students for always striving to be the best. Don't let that ever stop!
First, I want to thank Dr. Charles Steger for his leadership and dedication over the past 15 years as President of Virginia Tech.
Dr. Steger is a true Virginia leader and the very embodiment of Virginia Tech's motto, "That I may serve." He has led this university through good times and through some of the darkest moments in our Commonwealth's history, and I have no doubt that he will continue to serve Virginians as he begins the next chapter of his life.
Dr. Steger — I wish you well in your retirement and, on behalf of all Virginians, thank you.
And now to the Class of 2014. First of all, I have sat where all of you are sitting now, and nothing is worse than a long and boring commencement speech. So start your watches, I promise to be done here in about 10 minutes.
I am here to congratulate each and every one of you for the hard work you put into making it here today.
I am here to thank professors, parents, family and friends for the support each of you offered these graduates to help them reach this important milestone in their lives. In fact, graduates, will you join me in giving a round of applause to the people who helped you get here today?
And finally, I am here to offer you a few pieces of advice that I hope you will follow as you head out and begin to apply the things you learned at Tech in your everyday lives.
But before I get to that, I just want to take a moment and look back at how far you have come.
When most of you arrived here in 2010, the world looked a lot different than it does today.
Your first year in college was also the first year of the iPad -- now you can't walk into a classroom, airport or coffee shop without seeing dozens of tablet computers of all shapes and sizes.
When you got here to Virginia Tech, Instragram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Spotify didn't even exist, and now those programs and others like them are changing how people communicate all over the world.
And when most of you arrived here in August of 2010 as 18 and 19 year olds, the number 1 song in the nation was, fittingly, Katy Perry's Teenage Dream.
But over those four years all of you have left those days behind and transformed yourselves from those teenage dreamers into educated young adults who are about to graduate from one of the greatest universities in the nation.
But before you head out and celebrate, I would like to share a couple pieces of advice.
These are the three things I tell my 5 children every time we talk about their future. And they are the same three things I tell my cabinet and my staff when we talk about what we'd like to accomplish during my administration. Those three pieces of advice are simple:
Think Big. Take Chances. And don't be afraid to fail.
Let's start with the first one, Think Big.
I don't know if many of you know how I started my career. When I was 14 I knew that the only way I could go to college would be to find a way to help pay for it myself.
I knew I had to start my own business, but I had no idea what kind until I was walking home one day and saw an older guy in front of his house sealing his driveway. He was sweating and cursing and covered in tar.
I took one look at him and I knew right away that I could do great business sealing driveways, so guys like him wouldn't have to.
I hurried home and typed up a flyer to pass out to neighbors and by the by the end of that first day I had six jobs.
I still remember the feeling that day. I was in business!
The next Summer I decided it was time to expand and start sealing parking lots. But in order to do that I needed a truck to haul the larger barrels of tar you need to cover that much area.
I asked my uncle for help and he and out went out and found a beat up old truck. I still get chills thinking about the sound that engine made the first time I turned it over and pulled it onto the road.
There I was, a fifteen year old kid bouncing down the highway, no driver's license, no license plate, smiling from ear to ear as I honked and waved at the State Troopers I passed on the side of the road. I had made it! I was a success! And I knew my dream of attending college was now in reach.
Little did I know that tarring driveways and bank parking lots would someday lead to me being the youngest chairman of a bank in U.S. History and then, the Governor of Virginia.
Now I am not suggesting that all of you leave here and take up sealing driveways for a living. But I hope that as you begin the next phase of your lives, that you act boldly to accomplish your goals.
If you see an opportunity, seize it. You may not always know exactly where the journey will take you, but you will never regret taking a bold step to make life better for yourself, your family or your community.
The second piece of advice I have for you is to take chances.
My greatest lesson in the power of taking chances came when I was your age, right after I graduated from college.
I had just begun my first week on a full scholarship at Georgetown Law School when a friend of mine called and told me he had just taken a job on President Carter's reelection campaign. He offered me an opportunity to join the campaign and I decided to take the chance.
Now I bet you can imagine how the conversation with my mother Millie went when I told her I was leaving a law school scholarship behind to join political campaign, but I decided this was an experience I should have.
Over the course of that campaign I visited 40 states and became the national finance Chairman for the President of the United States by the time I was 23. Taking that chance changed my life.
Now I am certain that there are some parents out there who may not be thrilled to hear me urging their kids to put law school on hold to go work on a presidential campaign – and that certainly shouldn't be the lesson you take away from today.
What I hope you will remember is that there is difference between accepting a comfortable life and reaching for an exceptional one. Taking a chance means putting comfort aside and aspiring to something greater, knowing full well that you may fail.
I am sure that I could be a lawyer in some corporate office somewhere, and that I would find that to be a comfortable and happy life.
But when I look back on all the experiences I've had, at the journey I have taken as a result of taking that chance all those years ago, I am glad I took the chance I did.
Each of you will have opportunities to make decisions like that one as your lives move forward. Taking every risk that comes your way is not wise, but neither is passing on every opportunity out of fear of risk or the unknown.
Finally, my last piece of advice is a follow-up to the previous two. If you are bold, if you take chances, you are going to fail. You are going to experience rejection at times.
"Do not be afraid to fail."
Few people are more qualified to offer this piece of advice than I am. As some of you may remember, I have applied for my current job more than once.
Back in 2009 I decided to run for Governor because I thought I could make this Commonwealth a better place to live. I had a good life, a career that I enjoyed, but I decided it was the right chance to take.
I started a campaign and brought my case to the voters of Virginia and do you know what they said?
I can still remember waking up that next morning, having fallen short of my goal, and deciding that if I meant what I said during my campaign, if I believed I could create jobs and make this a better place for my family and families across Virginia, I couldn't take no for an answer.
So I got up, I dusted myself off, and I got back out there. And I can tell you without a doubt that the things I learned, the people I met, the stories I heard, and the ideas I formed during that first time around were indispensible to getting me here and helping me do the job in the way Virginians expect of me.
When that first campaign began, I didn't know how the journey would end. But I can look back now, after my first four months in office, and see how every step prepared me to be the best Governor I can be.
So as I continue to work to create jobs, grow our economy and create new opportunities for hard working Virginians like you, I will learn from the chances I took and the times when things didn't work out. Failure is a part of life. It's what you do the next day that counts.
And so as you walk across the stage today and begin the next chapter of your life, I hope you will adopt some of the advice I have for you today.
Think Big. Take Chances. And Don't Be Afraid to Fail.
In closing, here are a few other little things I've learned along the way:
- There's no such thing as a bad day. Every day that you wake up and get out of bed has the potential to be a good one. If you have a bad day you are in the wrong line of business. Do something about it!
- Never take yourself too seriously and always be positive. People want to be around winners, not whiners.
- Roll with the punches and be flexible. You may miss opportunities by being too rigid.
- Do what you want to do. You only live once.
- Sleep when you are dead!
- And finally, if you remember one thing from this speech, in whatever you do, always, always have fun!
Again, thank you for having me here today. I am expecting great things out of the Class of 2014. Best wishes and congratulations.