Adelphi Commencement 2012
Commencement Address, May 12, 2012
Lieutenant General Harry D. Raduege Jr. (USAF, Ret.)
Chairman, Deloitte Center for Cyber Innovation
Director, Deloitte Services LP
Provost von Lehmen, thank you for that kind introduction. President Miyares, Regent Attman, Mr. Wood, Cabinet members, faculty, staff, graduates, parents, and guests . . .
Today, the UMUC graduates will be leaving here with new credentials in life. As a result, most, if not all, will be entering the workforce or advancing to new jobs and opportunities. That’s most likely why the graduates continued their education and worked hard for the reality of this day—to get ahead. So I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about what it will take to continue to build upon the success that the graduates have achieved and that we’re all celebrating today.
Except for my biography and what Dr. von Lehmen has mentioned, you probably don’t know me. So, I’d like to put into perspective where I came from and why education is important to me.
Let’s begin by asking ourselves the question of who was responsible for challenging each of us in the past to pursue advanced education. Was it your mother and father (as it was in my case)? Was it a school teacher or an overall educational process? Or were you born as a self-motivated individual who wanted to gain a college degree? Well, for me, the most lasting memory of the value of education came from my father. In fact, I’m the proud son of a door-to-door milkman, who jumped in and out of a milk truck and walked the streets of Columbus, Ohio, delivering milk products for 40 years through rain, snow, and harsh temperatures. From the time I was eight years old until I was twenty-three, I helped my father deliver milk every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. We rationalized that an extra pair of hands and legs would give us more time at home together than if Dad had to do the job by himself.
On those days, Dad and I had a chance to bond as father and son, even though Dad was a man of few words. As a young teenager, I stood on the cold metal floor of that milk truck freezing one Christmas morning about 4 a.m., after we had already been working for three hours. It was then that my father saw me staring into the picture window of a large home as a family gathered around their holiday tree in warm robes and slippers opening presents together. My father saw the look in my eye as I shivered on that unusually cold day, and he quietly said, “Son, that’s why you want to get your education—so that, in the future, you’re with your family in a warm home on Christmas Day.”
I never have forgotten those words, spoken by a man who only had the opportunity of a sixth-grade education. The longer I have lived, the more I have realized Dad’s wisdom— learned on the street and from his milk customers. His challenge to me, however, was to study hard and to get an education. Dad’s words have served me well in the more than five decades that have passed since he gave me the gift of those challenges and I became the first person in our family to have a college education.
As graduates when you leave here today, it already will be time again to think about stepping up to doing your best, specifically, in working hard and striving to be a winner. Frankly, I like stories about hard work and winners. So, I’d like to share several stories with you.
The first story involves General Colin Powell. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity of working with General Powell, when he served within the Department of Defense as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and also when he served as our nation’s secretary of state. Since I was able to work closely with him on several occasions, I wanted to learn more about this highly accomplished man. From the book, Colin Powell: Soldier/Statesman, Statesman/Soldier by Howard Means, I found that General Powell came from a very humble, hard-working family background, much like many of us. Colin Powell, at age seventeen, worked in a soft-drink bottling plant in the Bronx. As a porter, one day he was faced with a large mess of broken glass and stickiness from more than 50 cases of cola that had fallen and smashed onto the floor. Rather than resenting or walking away from this mess, Powell decided to be the best mop wielder ever. Left to right, right to left, Colin Powell performed his duty. After Powell finished the job, his foreman was impressed with Powell’s dedication in mopping up the mess and leaving the floor cleaner than before the spill. Colin Powell’s hard work was noticed, and the next year he was promoted to the prestigious position of loading bottles on the bottling line—a place that no African American had been allowed to work before. The third summer, Powell again progressed with a promotion, this time, to deputy foreman. No matter what the job in life, Colin Powell’s philosophy was “Always do your best in whatever you do, because someone is always watching.” To Colin Powell, working hard has always been part of his strongest held personal beliefs.
Even with hard work, however, you probably still will experience major disappointments in life. For me, it came while I was a college student. My goal was to become a pilot. That’s why I joined the Air Force ROTC and attended classes and training that were conducted on campus. Throughout the university school years, and in addition to summer jobs, I worked at night in a store to earn money to pay for my education. Unfortunately, after I got home from work at 11:30 at night, I had to study for the next day’s classes. As a mathematics major, the study hours were long and the fluorescent lighting at my desk took its toll. In my junior year, right before I was to begin pilot training, my eyesight slipped to 20/40—which was unacceptable, at that time, for becoming an Air Force pilot. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. However, I looked for another area of interest in the Air Force and found one near the flight-line, called “communications.” Since I couldn’t be a pilot, my intent now was to serve in the Air Force for four years and then return to civilian life. Well, as you’ve heard from the introduction, I stayed in the Air Force for 35 years, because I found a career interest that I love and that now has followed me into civilian life.
At my retirement ceremony from the Air Force a few years ago, I reflected on the fact that I was leaving with a good feeling. As I looked back on those 35 years, I did my best, and I couldn’t have given more of myself to the jobs that were assigned to me. So if, at the end of your career—or any job for that matter—you can say “I did my best and couldn’t have given more,” you will walk away with great satisfaction—just as I did.
For this element of hard work and in achieving success in your future—establishing goals, staying focused, and achieving your objectives—will serve you well. The value of hard work was recognized many years ago when Voltaire made the profound proclamation that “Work keeps at bay three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.”
My added “work hard” message to you today—courtesy of my father—is that to maximize your success, you must continue to study hard throughout your life. You will be given opportunities, and when they come, seize them. From this day forth, study also must be a continuing part of your education, development, advancement, and fulfillment. I’m reminded of the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension.” And with that thought (and to really supercharge your personal growth), also plan your educational future by establishing goals, staying focused, and achieving your objectives. Those of you who remain focused, study, and work hard will be best prepared to compete for the most satisfying jobs and fulfillment in life.
A second important aspect I’ve learned from my years in government and industry is that you should concentrate on building relationships and not burning bridges. Your future success will depend on teamwork and building trust with others. Those trusted relationships may involve family, friends, teammates, or your acknowledged creator. For me, I’m proud that Deloitte, my current employer, allowed me the opportunity to join UMUC in helping to design UMUC’s new cybersecurity degree programs—from which we have the first graduates with us today.
In a related experience, several weeks ago I was in San Antonio, participating in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. This event drew the top defenders of information networks from 10 colleges and universities from across the United States. Each of these 10 schools had already been competing throughout the year and had won their individual regional championships. Now, the best-of-the-best were competing for the national title. After three days of tireless and demanding work and the mental exercise of establishing and defending a make-believe but realistic network called “Go Mommy” against an expert team of prearranged cyber attackers, the national champion team was announced. Interestingly, following the competition, I saw senior leaders from government and industry handing their business cards to each of the individual competitors.
These college students had been recognized for their expertise and as accomplished team players. Now, because of their exceptional teamwork, demonstrated performance, and significant accomplishments, they were being offered great jobs in government, industry, and academia, on-the-spot. I recommended to each of the competitors that they remember both their teammates and opponents, because I fully expect that they will see and work with each other throughout the many years ahead in cybersecurity-related career fields. The overall message here is never underestimate how building strong, effective relationships and teamwork can serve you in life and your career.
I also want to provide some advice about taking special care in not burning bridges for your future. Be very careful in what you post—and in what others post about you—to social media Web sites and information links. Remember, your Facebook entry today might become part of your résumé tomorrow. Don’t allow the posting of any thoughts, pictures, or videos of you that you would not be proud of or that you would be embarrassed to explain to a job interviewer in the future. In fact, depending on the severity of your social media posting, you might discover that you were automatically eliminated from job consideration prior to a job interview based on an unflattering Web site posting. Burning bridges of potential opportunity, working relationships, or friendship can have both short-term and long-term negative effects on you and your career.
The third aspect of future success I’d like to talk about today is for you to shoot for the stars. With this, I mean don’t sell yourself short or underestimate what you can achieve. Establish lofty goals for yourself. Strive for greatness in your chosen field. And, recognize that you now have more choices. The fact is that you can work in government—the choice is yours. You can work in the private sector —the choice is yours. You can work in academia—the choice is yours. Or you can choose another worthy way of spending your time—the choice is yours.
Last week, I toured the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs. There, I saw our nation’s Olympians training hard for the Summer Olympics that will be held in London 11 weeks from now. I was amazed at the dedication of these athletes, the choices they’ve made, and how hard they train each day and night, including eating only the most healthy and appropriate foods and living a highly regimented way of life. I was fascinated by the realization that some of these athletes are dedicating themselves—putting their careers on hold—for four years for a competitive event that might last less than 10 seconds. Because of the rigorous training, some also will fall victim to injury just before their primary window of opportunity. Just think about the dedication, sacrifice, and hard work required—despite knowing that it might result in that type of disappointment!
Also while in Colorado Springs last week, I attended the Warrior Games. This is a week-long Olympic-style competition for wounded, ill, and injured U.S. military members. This year, the British armed forces also joined the U.S. forces. Each year, as part of their rehabilitation and recovery, more than 200 injured military members compete against each other and on teams in seven different events: archery, cycling, shooting, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball. They train for these events all year long as a complement to their physical and mental therapy. I’ll never forget the determination of these warrior-athletes to do their best and to be winners. Two of my grandsons particularly were inspired to watch one of our nation’s wounded warriors compete in a 50-yard swimming event against other severely injured military members. This wounded warrior drew everyone’s attention, for he had lost both legs and an arm. He competed in this demanding swimming event with only one arm and great determination. He didn’t win the race, but—most importantly—he completed the 50-yard swim to thunderous applause from his teammates and the audience. Indeed, he served as an example—to his teammates and to others—that you should always try your best, never quit, strive to be a winner, and “go for the gold.” Every one of the athletes who competed in the Warrior Games was a winner. Each one of them competed to win even after experiencing devastating, life-changing injuries while answering our nation’s call to defend the freedoms we all enjoy today and every day.
A degree from UMUC—together with a philosophy of hard work, building relationships, and shooting for the stars—will allow you to achieve greater things than you might be thinking even today.
In fact, the characteristics of Generation Y people—and, by that, I mean those between the approximate ages of 10 to 37 years old—are well known and are being recognized more and more by employers today. If you haven’t heard or didn’t realize, Generation Y people are
- the most diverse and most educated,
- innovative and creative,
- those who seek to make a difference and produce something worthwhile,
- those who value teamwork and collaborative effort,
- those who are involved in family discussions and respect the opinions of others, and
- those who are energetic and who expect speed and change.
Generation Y people are connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the world only a “click” away. They are responsive to guidance and membership, and are characterized as liking older people (that, in fact, makes me feel particularly good). Generation Y are those who expect to be respected for ideas and insights, and they will stay with an organization if offered ongoing opportunities to grow and learn new things.
With this set of impressive characteristics, is it any wonder that Generation Y people—and, that’s a large percentage of you—are being sought in both the public and private sectors? You see, as you sit here today—and, whether you’re in that specific age grouping or not—those of you with Generation Y characteristics already have a lot going for you. In fact, I believe that Generation Y people are the “secret weapon” for our nation’s future success. In departing this UMUC commencement ceremony today, we all have an obligation to capitalize on that.
I also have one special request of each of you. Don’t forget to thank all of those who have supported you in your journey at UMUC and for helping you arrive at this place of achievement and honor. Today, a college education is expensive, but we also should remember the words of Derek Bok, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
Over these past years at UMUC, you have spent your money wisely. Indeed, your parents, family members, friends, and the faculty and staff of UMUC deserve special recognition for their support and belief in what you could achieve. On numerous occasions, they have been by your side and cheering for you from the sidelines.
I also want to thank you for the distinct honor of being here with you today. UMUC is an impressive institution of higher education that specializes in high-quality academic programs tailored to more than 92 thousand working adults in 28 countries and territories around the world. Everyone here can take pride in the professionalism, achievement, and graduates of UMUC.
I wish all of you continuing success, happiness, and fulfillment in life and your chosen career.