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Graduation Wisdom that Really Matters


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The tassels have been turned and commencement speeches made. Words of wisdom, inspiration and guidance have been bestowed upon the graduating classes of 2022 at college commencements across the country over the past few weeks, prompting us to soak up some advice —and even impart a bit of our own.

Consider this a highlight reel of sorts, with quotes from speeches given by athletes, performers and politicians at graduation ceremonies including Emory University, New York University, Gallaudet University and the University of Delaware. Wisdom is gleaned from many sources, so while this isn’t a comprehensive list, it’s a smattering of guidance from those who have experienced much throughout their lives, who daresay, are still learning.

Joe Biden

University of Delaware

“I hope you feel that way today, though, that you can change things. Because that’s what I see in all of you. You can make the difference. You can lift the country up. You can meet the challenges of our time.”

Tyler Perry

Emory University

"I'm 52 years old, and I'm still meeting professors. And what that means is anyone who comes into your life, anyone who comes to teach you something, to bring value---those people count as professors."

Billie Jean King

Springfield College

"Don't let others define you, because believe me, they will try, but don't you dare let them define you. You define yourself in your life.”

Taylor Swift

New York University

“Never be ashamed of trying. Effortlessness is a myth. The people who wanted it the least were the ones I wanted to date and be friends in high school. The people who want it the most are the people I now hire to work for my company.”

Ketanji Brown

Georgetown Day School

“When you get to decision points, I want you to remember that you have the power to choose how you are going to respond, react and behave,” You now have an opportunity to make a path about your future. I encourage you to listen to your inner voice, the things that make you say, ‘This is great, I want to do more of this.’”

Tim Cook

Gallaudet University

“What I mean is that you should make decisions, big and small, each and every day based on a deep understanding of who you are and what you believe. These are not static things, and you wouldn't want them to be. You will learn more and grow more with each passing year as all of us do, but there are foundational values that are core to your personality and your character and these are the things you should choose to live by.””

Dr. Anthony Fauci

University of Maryland, Baltimore

"I still feel a palpable excitement in the continual process of learning, no matter which of the many hats of responsibility that I'm wearing — seeing patients, working in the laboratory, directing a large biomedical research institute, or advising the President of the United States during a raging pandemic. I urge you to embrace such an attitude as you proceed in the wide range of careers that you all will pursue.

Allyson Felix

University of Southern California

"Remember: Your voice has power. You have to use your voice, even if it shakes. There are times when you will ask for change, and there are times when you'll create it. … It's important to live a life of purpose."

Success, however, isn’t a one size fits all endeavor and its definition is as varied as those who dispense insight, so members of The Alexander Group and Alex & Red teams are offering their own bits of wisdom—perfect for a new graduate, or those simply seeking a fresh perspective.

Jane Howze

Managing Director, The Alexander Group

"Embrace business etiquette. Learn a decent handshake. First impressions count. Don’t grab my fingers and call it a handshake. Stand when someone you are meeting for the first time walks into a room. Don’t be late and equally important don’t be early. Nothing worse than showing up in a reception area 45 minutes early."

"Learn business writing. So few people today know how to craft a sentence let alone a paragraph. There is no job or profession that will not recognize good or bad writing. And, at the risk of sounding shallow, invest in one nice pair of shoes, purse, suit or a sports jacket. It’s not about quantity but quality."

Amanda Brady

Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, The Alexander Group

“The path to success in your career and in your life is not a straight line. It can be bumpy and crooked and frustrating and even uncomfortable at times. If you are willing to approach obstacles as opportunities and consider setbacks as steppingstones, you’ll likely end up in a much better place than you ever dreamed. But never stop dreaming. Believe in yourself and then be willing to put in a little more effort than the next person.”

Beth Ehrgott,

Managing Director, The Alexander Group

“Life is a journey and throws us many curve balls along the way. Embrace adversity, fight through it with everything you have and more, (mind, body, and soul), learn from it, and know how strong and well-equipped you are to overcome any challenge and shine! Simply said, just BELIEVE!!!”

John Mann

Managing Director, Alex & Red

“Find a way to make a living by doing what you love but select a career that, at minimum, will provide you with financial independence. Nice dress clothes are worth the expense. Seek opportunities to add value and learn as much as you can about your career field, your employer, and their clients.”

Jon Verlander

Managing Director, Alex & Red

“Take time to find your own path and don’t feel compelled to follow the crowd. Keep educating yourself by learning from people around you – don’t be afraid to ask for advice (you’ll be amazed how much most people like to be asked for advice). Travel before you can’t, and PTO allowance and commitments get in the way.”

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