Delivered Friday, April 8,
distinguished faculty, staff, friends, and candidates for degrees. It's a privilege to pay tribute to Jacksonville
latest graduating class.
Graduates, I commend you for
having the wisdom and desire to seek and obtain your college degree. I want to
do my part to make sure you leave here tonight not only with a diploma but with
a few brilliant ideas about your future. Naturally, given my particular
background, "brilliant ideas" mean thought-provoking and conservative
ideas. Maybe something I say will go
with you and be of value in your future endeavors.
By the way, the word
conservative can be confusing, thanks to TV news and other sources. If you use
the word "conservative" as an adjective rather than as a noun, you will
correctly understand my message this evening.
thinking" is a way of life that transcends politics, and there are
"conservative thinking" individuals who are even democrats. So,
understand that my phrase "conservative thinking" refers to a way of
life or style of living—things like character, moral outlook, and having a
practical personal philosophy of life. When you apply "conservative
ideas," you will find yourself
acting in your own best interests and those of your family and society.
Now, I would like to share a
brief description of my background so that you may better understand some
of the ideas I am going to present.
just cannot imagine all the
brilliant ideas that are in store for you.
I was a "depression
baby"—born in 1935 near the end of the great depression. However, most
everyone agrees that the effects of the economic depression lasted much longer
than the historic period itself. The depression influenced our thinking and far
outlived the actual days of hardship that we endured. Drawing inspiration from
adversity, we learned and benefited from the great depression.
For example, the depression
gave me a far different outlook on wealth and success than you have today. I grew up in the country with no paved roads,
electricity, or running water. We did
get electricity when I was 13. Paved
roads and water came later. We had a
wooden ice box on the back porch which
held ice for tea and
chilling small amounts of food. Food
was primarily preserved by canning and drying. We slaughtered our own hogs and kept the meat in a smoke house and
salt box. Milk was kept cool by
lowering it into
the well. This was the same well where we used a rope
and pulley to draw water for cooking and bathing and for taking care of our livestock
and chickens. We grew vegetables in a
garden and fruit in a nearby orchard. We
were not considered poor, but we knew some poor folks in the community—and
we shared with them whatever was in season.
One of the happiest days of
my life was the day we moved to town, where I started the ninth grade. But you're thinking, "Please don't tell
me any more about the 'good ole days!'"
I spent two years in the
army and came to Jacksonville
college on the GI Bill. To supplement the GI Bill, I worked a lot of
different jobs and borrowed less than $2,000 from my great aunt. I received my
degree in three years. So, like many of you, I was in debt coming out of
Here is where I want you to
listen closely. I want to help you pay
off those student loans. Conservative
thinking will lead you to get those loans out of the way as quickly as
possible. I predict that most of you will marry and have children. You will
need houses, cars, and items you cannot now imagine. So, pay off your school
loans quickly so you can save faster and more profitably. That way, you can
better take care of yourself and your family.
Here is one idea that will
work. When you receive your first paycheck, play a mind game—but for real.
Pretend the check is for five or preferably 10 percent less than it actually
is. Put this amount into a savings account until you accumulate a predetermined
amount; say, $500. Then, make a payment to reduce your student loan. For those
of you without loans, this is a good way to begin a savings plan.
I emphasize saving money and
paying your debts for a reason. Plato said prudence is chief among virtues. Being prudent and learning financial
responsibility early in your career is important for you and for our entire
economy. Dedicate yourself and take deliberate steps toward success. Avoid
being someone who "wants it all today," someone who goes deeper and
deeper into debt with no idea how he or she will repay. People who take on too much debt and dash at
their objectives without giving thought to how or why they are pursuing a
particular course of action are heading for disaster. As John Randolph of
"providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries."
There are a million ways to
save. One of my favorites is to drink lots of water! How, you ask, will this help me to save? When
you go to work you will be eating many meals away from home. Tea, coffee, and
soft drinks are expensive. You can easily save $20 to $50 monthly just by
drinking healthy h20, and without all that caffeine you will sleep better at
night. Now do you see how the great
depression shaped my thinking? You can boil it down to
this: don't spend your money—exchange it for things that have equal or better value.
The next brilliant idea is
to pretend that you do not get pay raises!
When you get a pay increase, immediately transfer that amount into your
Another brilliant idea is to
carefully manage your credit cards. Many of you began getting credit card
offers long before graduation. After tonight, you will receive many more
seemingly wonderful bargains in platinum and gold cards. Beware! And if you are guilty of carrying a balance
on your credit card, forget about paying your student loans—pay off those
high interest charge cards first! Then commence the plan to pay off your
Here's another extremely
brilliant idea: If you smoke, stop! Smoking is a nasty, unhealthy habit. It is
very expensive. Many employers take a dim view of employees and prospective
employees who smoke. Employers are concerned about increased healthcare costs
and loss of work time by smokers.
The next brilliant idea is: Don't try to "keep up with the Joneses!" In truth, a particular Mr.
Jones may be driving a new sports car, fishing from a new bass boat, using
expensive golf clubs, wearing the latest fashions—all with hardly a nickel
in his pocket. Mr. Jones may be disastrously far into debt. Appearances can be
deceiving. I suggest that you work hard, save your money, live within your
earnings, pay yourself first in the form of savings and then, one day in the
future, you can be a Mr. Jones or better.
See how this works? Apply
these kind of brilliant ideas and people from my generation will think you came
through the depression too!
The last brilliant idea I
will give you will make your job more fulfilling and rewarding. Live by the
golden rule daily—especially at work. Adopt the highest of ethical
standards. Take pride in your work and perform to the highest expectations.
Please your employer just as you've pleased your professors here at JSU—go
the extra mile. Be your own quality assurance inspector. Always respect the
opinions of others. Along with this, I say continue your education—distance
learning, night school, internet, and weekend classes are several ways to learn
and obtain advanced degrees, which will help you earn salary increases.
Finally, I ask you to be
loyal to your alma mater. Renew your alumni membership next year. Come back to
campus for events such as drama, music, and athletics. Ask your employer to
give JSU an opportunity to provide workshops and continuing education classes.
Now, with your diploma and
all these brilliant ideas, it's time for you to go forth and excel!
Good luck and God bless as
you go forward with your life.