Yesterday, I enjoyed the privilege of delivering the keynote address at Seton Hall University’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication & Leadership Graduation ceremony. While much of the talk was specific and personal to this particular group of graduates, we were all surrounded by the family and friends who make such celebrations possible. I’d like to share the end of the speech in an effort to highlight this point:
As you well know, leadership, as lofty as the term may be, isn’t always about changing the world; most often, it’s about changing ONE PERSON’S WORLD for the better.
Just a few months ago, Americans cast their votes for whom they believed should lead our nation for the next four years. Countless volunteer hours and hundreds of millions of dollars were invested to elect a president. While one could argue that he may be the most powerful leader in the world, a president will actually have less of an impact on the daily lives of most of us here today than the more unheralded leaders who touch our lives each and every day.
Many of those leaders, by the way, are sitting behind you.
There’s also the elementary school teacher who may have inspired you to read more. That next-door neighbor who kept a watchful eye for your well-being when you were growing up. It might have been that high school coach or that boss who touched your life and lifted your spirit by uttering just two simple words of appreciation. These are the people who matter most. These are the leaders who selflessly gave of themselves to elevate your life just as others have inspired their own.
Peter Senge once wrote, “Most of us hold one of two contradictory beliefs that limit our ability to create what we really want. The more common belief is our powerlessness – our inability to bring into being all the things we really care about. The other belief centers on unworthiness – that we do not deserve to have what we truly desire.”
It’s hard to imagine standing before a group of people who are more powerful or more worthy than you. When you walk out these doors today, continue what you’ve started. Ask yourselves: How will I approach my work and my life differently tomorrow? What person who helped me along the way will I call to say thank you? And how will I pay it forward and inspire the lives of others?
My guess is, after listening to the letters you read last night (about how you envisioned your life a decade from now), that as creative and aspirational as you all are, no letter you could craft today will likely live up to the life you’ll lead tomorrow.
On behalf of all of us at Seton Hall University, thank you for the privilege of learning from you, laughing with you, and sharing in the joy of your accomplishment!
So let me suggest this to you as well: Make someone’s day. Call or send an email to a person who made a difference in your life and thank them! I suspect it will make you both feel pretty terrific!