Class of 2010, you made it. It’s been a challenge, but here you are. And we, your professors, advisors, professional staff, friends, and family are so glad and so proud. In your years here at Rowan, you as a group have accomplished much. You have gotten good grades, excelled at sports, become a part of Greek organizations, kept student groups alive and successful, and won awards. Your successes and your challenges have touched your faculty and your peers. You’ve made lifelong friends and learned more about yourself in the process. And now you turn to a whole new set of pursuits. Some of you will head off to graduate school, some will get full time jobs, some will travel, some will start a family or continue raising a family, and some of you may not be quite sure what you will do after the graduation party. There are many paths that you can take, but regardless of what you chose to pursue, my one piece of advice to you is the same – but, before I turn to that piece of advice, I would like to speak briefly about a member of our college, who is an impressive example of the principle I am about to espouse to you. That individual is Professor Tony Fulginiti.
Professor Tony Fulginiti has been at Rowan since 1976, helping to build the Public Relations program and providing his service and support to the department and its students. During his time at Rowan, Professor Fulginiti dedicated himself to doing each task to the best of his ability, and it showed. He established and “brought up” a nationally award winning chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America that has contributed to the career success of many students. In recognition of his work, the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America named an award for education in his honor, and he received the Outstanding Educator in the Nation award from PRSA in 1987. An author, a practitioner, and a dedicated teacher, Professor Fulginiti recently established the Fulginiti Education Foundation to serve public relations students at Rowan. He is clearly an example of long-term excellence to which we can all aspire and we are lucky to have had the pleasure to have him as a vital part of the College of Communication. Professor Fulginiti is moving into a new phase of his life, retirement, this summer, and I suspect he will launch into that phase with all the devotion and focus he has shown to his work at Rowan.
Professor Fulginiti’s career can be seen as an example of the piece of advice I would like to leave you with today. That advice is as follows: Whatever path you choose to take with your life and your career, engage it fully and to the best of your ability.
Kenneth Burke, noted scholar of communication talks about humans as being the inventors of the negative. Now, to discuss all of the things Burke meant by that would take more time than I have today, but one of the ways to understand it is that Burke is saying that we humans think in terms of what is not-here and not-now. While we are doing one thing, we think about what we are not doing or what we should or shouldn’t be doing. We have lunch with a friend, but we are thinking about the fact that we have to go to work afterward. We get to work and do our jobs, but we are thinking about the workout we didn’t get that morning and planning how we will make up for it later. We type up a report, but while we do, we consider whether our boss will like it and what she will say about it and whether it will help us get a raise or a bonus. We head home and have some leftover pizza, but we think about the salad that we should have had and what’s on television that night. In any case, we are so busy thinking about where, or when, or who we are not, that we cannot dedicate ourselves to when, and where, and who we are. We miss truly listening to that friend and the joy of the conversation; we don’t do our very best work on that report or feel the satisfaction of fully focusing on the task and bringing our utmost to it; we don’t even really enjoy the taste of that pizza.
Keeping yourself in the moment you are in while putting your attention firmly onto the efforts you are engaging in, is the best path to success. Now, I am not saying that if you do this you will never make a mistake or that you will end up on a yacht in the Caribbean, but when you truly focus on what you are doing and give it your very best, whatever you accomplish in that moment is a success and you can be proud of it. You probably know this at some level intuitively. When you have taken a test or written a paper and just put your attention into creating the most persuasive and clear argument you could or really showing what you knew, you likely did far better than when you were worrying about your grade, multi-tasking online, or thinking about something else. And even if the grade wasn’t your highest, you likely still felt good about working to your utmost.
In summary, class of 2010, take this piece of advice, this thing you already know at an intuitive level but maybe rarely consider, and head into your next set of opportunities. Whatever you do, be in that place and in that time and who you are. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Go forth, Class of 2010, and enjoy the surf.