What a great, great day!
Look at all your proud faces! Thank you Principal Starzenski for the
kind introduction, and thank you to the Class of 2015 for allowing me to
speak on your day. I am so honored.
You are amazing — the
products of a remarkable school and wonderful upbringing. I am awed by
the individual and group accolades that have accrued over your four
Look around at everyone who is here — for you. Parents,
siblings, friends, partners, teachers, neighbors — not a single one of
them is here by accident. They want to be here. They want to be here
because this is one of the great inflection points in your life — when
everything you have accomplished and become has readied you for
everything you will do and be. They know you. They have seen you joyous
and crestfallen, silly and serious, confident and insecure, smart and
foolish, and strong and gentle. They want to be here because they know
what I know — that you carry with you our shared hopes and dreams.
let that settle on you — we’re counting on you. We are counting on you
to help create a brilliant future out of the uncertain, complex, dynamic
present in which we live. We are counting on you to serve your turn.
And, we know you will be enough — if you accept that you must be. There
is no parallel universe where the REAL people are doing the work. It is
They want to be here because they see what I see —
what you can’t yet — that yawning in front of you is a life of
unimaginable possibility and they want you to know that you are just the
right people to make something great happen. They want to celebrate
you, and bask in your glory, and launch you with every bit of courage
that you will need to take on that great quest that is the life of your
This is actually the second time I’ve spoken to a
graduating high school class. The first was to my own — nearly forty
years ago. Forty years ago. That’s so shocking to say! I thought I’d be a
lot older by now! If you had told me then what the next forty years
would hold, I would not have believed you (no matter how sure I was or
how much confidence I exuded!).
I’ve helped keep America safe for
democracy. I’ve travelled hundreds of thousands of miles around the
world and met people so different and yet so the same. I’ve built things
that were more unbelievable than the stuff in sci-fi movies. I’ve led
women and men to achieve great heights and I have personally failed in
ways that still make me cringe. I’ve seen my children born, grow, and
move on to pursue their own adventures, and I’ve lived every day with my
best friend. I’ve been awed in the heroic accomplishments of patriots
and I have been there on the lonely tarmac when some come home for the
last time. And, I’ve had this life not because of any great ability or
predisposition, but because I had the courage to start a journey, just
as you are about to do.
So, graced with a second chance to
speak, this time with some hard-won wisdom under my belt, let me offer
you some thoughts that I hope you will find useful as you chart your
Do not be in a hurry! Be purposeful, yes, but you do not
need to achieve everything tomorrow, or in your first semester, or in
your 20s, or before retirement. By all means, fill the unforgiving
minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run, but it doesn’t have to
be in a straight line. Keep your head up, try new things, lend a hand,
take some detours, learn a lot—and a lot of different stuff—and enjoy
every minute of every day.
Do get good at something. You must
acquire skill and expertise. Everything good starts when you actually
know, and have worked to know, how to do things. You want people to care
what you think? Start with being good. But, do not view acquiring
knowledge like a check-box exercise, like acquiring badges. Actually
care about learning.
You are not that cool…or you are. If you
are, today, one of the cool kids, get ready, because cool kids are a
dime a dozen out there. If you are not cool at all today, get ready,
because you will find so many others in your life who are like you and
get you. All that matters is the quality of your character. And if you
hold on to that, you will always be enough just as you are. In other
words, be true.
There is always a solution. You will confront
challenges…some that seem impossible to resolve. There is always a way.
It might be hard, it might cost you something, but if it must be done,
it can be done. The key to happiness is believing you have choice. The
key to success is knowing that there are consequences and you don’t
control any of them. So make choices that are worth it.
You. Are. Not. Alone. You haven’t been to this point in your life…you need not be going forward.
You do not actually possess all the wisdom in the universe. True. Deal with it now, it will go easier on you later.
are people who will help…be brave enough to ask. And please, if you
hold on to nothing else, remember that help is not when you can give it,
help is when someone needs it.
Call your parents—more often than
you think is warranted. Not just when you need money. Call when you are
happy, or sad, just won the game, or just lost your love. Call just
because. If you’re worried that they will know too much just by the
sound of your voice…text. Or send pictures. And not on Snapchat, because
we don’t use it, we don’t get it, and we want to actually KEEP the
Learn how to make decisions. This is the most vital of
all skills. Decisions impel progress. Inertia should not be the dominant
force in determining your path. Practice it. Get good at it. You will
make some wrong moves, but if every mistake you make is an original
mistake, you will find your way.
You have the ability to make
things worse. So, when you find yourself leading, own the
responsibility. And, just when you are absolutely certain of your
rightness, consider the possibility that you might be 100 percent
Give away everything you have if it will help the cause.
Be generous with your time, your ideas, your energy, even your things —
you can get more of most of these, and time spent on others is time
well spent. But do keep something for yourself. It might be friends,
family, music, books, art, but have something that sustains and
Do not just stand there on escalators. I’m serious. There are places to go and people to meet…get on with it!
And be careful with fireworks. They’re dangerous.
Say yes. If someone you respect asks you to do something — even if it’s scary — say yes.
believe. Believe that you are actually supposed to achieve the goal set
before you. If you do, you will find your way around and through the
obstacles that would deter the less committed. Moreover, people will
want to come with you. People are cynical to protect themselves. Be
someone who inspires others to throw off the bowlines.
Finally, be gentle, for everyone is fighting a great battle.
Be inclusive, appreciate diversity.
Overuse “thank you” and practice gratitude.
We are all travelers, none go their way alone.
The motto of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is Know the Earth…Show the Way…Understand the World.
I think if we squint at it, it is a perfect encapsulation of my message to you.
— Know the Earth — be good, be grounded and be present in the moment.
the Way — bring someone along — be generous in thought and deed — so
that we all get there. Be positive, honest and respectful.
the World — do not be myopic. Be aware that you are in a system that
has its own force and vector. Your actions matter, but they are not the
only things going on.
Again, I am so honored to be here with you —
to send you on your way, to get to say I know you. What you will do,
every day, makes a difference. Live that way.
Now, go forth and do good! I can’t wait to see where you take us.
|Women in Defense
August 8, 2019 — Remarks as prepared for Dr. Stacey Dixon, Deputy Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
GEOINT 2019 Symposium
June 3, 2019 — Remarks as prepared for Vice Adm. Robert Sharp, Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency