Text of Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks - At Texas A & M University December 2005 Commencement
(NOTE: Gov. Perry frequently deviates from prepared text.)
Dr. Gates, members of the Board of Regents, distinguished faculty; friends, family and loved ones of our guests of honor, the graduating class of 2005:
It is a distinct privilege to be with you.
Being that this is a December graduation ceremony, I have come to the conclusion that I must be in the presence of a bunch of over-achievers who have finished a semester early.
If not, hey, at least you made it.
And whether you were here three and a half years or seven and a half years, that diploma reads the same.
Just be sure it is signed.
I know your loved ones are feeling a lot of emotions today: Some are feeling great pride in what you have accomplished; many, sheer joy that this day actually arrived, and others great satisfaction knowing that after all these many years, you're finally off the family payroll. Time to go get a job!
I remember the day I got my diploma like it was yesterday.
It was a bit of a close call, not because I was in danger of sinking below a 2 point 0 - heey, I had a couple tenths of a point to spare - but because my dad had to do a little negotiating on my behalf.
You see, he got a phone call from the A&M Administration one fateful day.
They said, "Mr. Perry, we're afraid to inform you that your son is at risk of not graduating. That is, unless he pays $300 in parking tickets."
For many of you this is a day of bittersweet parting.
You can take great satisfaction that you will never again take a final exam, you will never spend another day in a Cowboy Calculus class, and you will never be forced to room with someone whose definition of clean laundry is turning their shirt inside-out.
But then there is the down side: Not every town has a Dixie Chicken, not everyone outside Aggieland says "howdy," and Mr. Bill won't come out of retirement to help you pass the rest of life.
As I look out upon this sea of graduates today, I sense some of you are filled with anxiety.
And I think I know why: Just as you procrastinated before every test, you haven't gotten around to finding a job.
And quite frankly, mom and dad aren't happy about it.
They did not spend a fortune on this degree so you can collect unemployment.
When you finally do get around to interviewing, you better be on your best behavior and be careful to avoid the pitfall of over-confidence, like the young man who thought his interview was going really well.
Then they asked him the dumbest interview question ever invented, "What is your greatest weakness?"
It's right up there with that stupid political debate question, "Do you have anything nice to say about your opponent?"
Anyway, this young man got a little full of himself.
And after repeating the question out loud - "what is my greatest weakness" - a wry smile came across his face and he said, "That would have to be kryptonite."
Superman was still unemployed after that interview.
You might be relieved to know my goal here today is not to offer one last classroom lecture.
I'm not even going to try to cram 55 years of life experience into a long sermon of advice.
You already know, after studying for several years at this great university, that you are blessed - blessed with a great education and blessed to walk into a world of unlimited opportunity.
The great majority of people worldwide could only dream of walking across this stage.
Not only will you benefit from a tremendous education but from a unique university experience that is second-to-none.
No school boasts of prouder traditions or a stronger family network.
The bonds of affiliation developed in your time at Texas A&M will forever change your life.
The Aggie network is such that you can walk through a door wearing that ring and attract the favor of a complete stranger because either they wear the same ring or have complete trust in the quality of graduates our university sends forth into the world.
People know what Aggies are about: that we value honesty and loyalty, that we give a day's work for a day's pay, and that in a world that teaches us to look out for number one, Aggies look out for others first.
A&M's storied legacy is one of service to causes greater than self.
That includes not only heroism on the field of battle but leadership in the private sector, the public sector, and communities and towns across this great land.
That legacy of selflessness is not merely an epitaph on the tombs of those who have gone before us, it is an inheritance for every graduate of this institution.
We have the highest expectations for each one of you because Texas A&M has given you so much over these last few years.
And to whom much is given, much is expected in return.
While that diploma you will receive is important, it's what you do with that diploma that matters most.
A life of meaning and purpose is not guaranteed by a piece of paper.
It is not even guaranteed if you meet society's definition of success: a good salary, a nice home and a large bank account.
I hope you will leave here today inspired to not only live a successful life but a significant life.
And before you leave this arena and take your first step in the great rat race that awaits you, I ask you to pause for a moment and fast-forward to the end of your life.
When your work here on earth is done, what do you want said about your life?
We will all arrive at that final destination.
And though we don't choose the day or the hour of our arrival, we do have some choice as to the course we take.
I ask you: What accomplishments will you look back upon? To what causes will you have devoted your time and your soul? What will be your legacy? Will you have lived a life of meaning and purpose? And what will that purpose be?
A life lived without a purpose is like a ship lost at sea, bantered about by waves and storms with no port to call home.
You may not know the answer to what your purpose in life is as you sit here today. And that's okay.
Questions of great significance should not be answered on a whim. Nor should they be ignored as if any of us can escape them if we choose to never answer them.
Let me make one suggestion based on an observation made by author and pastor Rick Warren who wrote the widely acclaimed best-seller "The Purpose-driven Life."
He writes, "I have been at the bedside of many people in their final moments, when they stand on the edge of eternity, and I have not heard anyone say, 'Bring me my diplomas! I want to look at them one more time. Show me my awards, my medals, that gold watch I was given.'
"When life on earth is ending, people don't surround themselves with objects. What we want around us is people - people we love and have relationships with."
My thought is this: In the end, the only thing that matters is relationships.
If you want to build a lasting legacy, let the foundation be love and let your purpose be building strong relationships.
A life of significance is a life that discriminates between no one, regardless of class, creed or color, when it comes to love.
When you can appreciate the person who cleans your building as much as the one who owns it, when you show kindness to the least among us because you can, and not just to those with power because you have to, then you recognize in each human being there is the same amount of dignity conferred upon them by the same wonderful Creator.
Love in its purest form forsakes the desires of self for the needs of other people.
And love in its truest sense is a verb, requiring an active life of service through words and deeds.
To all of you, but especially to you young men, I want to emphasize that in order to have a real relationship with someone, you have to spend time with them.
Do not be fooled by the whole quantity versus quality debate: You can't have quality unless you have quantity.
Investing in the lives of people should not be something we make time for, it should be what causes us to wake in the morning.
There will be times in your life when your mind is filled with so many worries you can't think straight.
And then a friend will call you on the phone who needs someone to talk to and you will be so tempted to say, "I have so much going on, can I call you back?"
Resist that urge if at all possible. Put the other person first.
If you do, something amazing happens: Those things that troubled you - a deadline looming at the office, or the color of the new couch, or missing the first quarter of the football game - none of it seems so important anymore.
Plus that's why God invented TIVO.
I ask you: What is more important than helping a friend or redirecting the life of a troubled child or helping someone cope with loss, pain or addiction?
Relationship-building is hard work. It gets in the way of the self. And it takes time.
But what is more important than spending time with your fellow travelers on the journey called life?
Make time for the important things: the people you love and people in need.
When you invest in the lives of others, you discover one of life's great paradoxical rewards: that our blessings are never made full until freely shared with others.
You cannot measure in a monetary sense what it means to help another human being. But it far surpasses any reward that money can buy.
Everything you own or acquire will some day belong to someone else.
Temporary goods provide temporary satisfaction.
But love leaves a lasting impact.
I think Mark Twain meant the exact same thing when he said, "Endeavor to live so well, that when you die, even the undertaker will be sorry."
As you leave here today, I offer you my sincerest congratulations.
We are so proud of you and we have such high hopes for you and your future.
May you find fulfillment in living a life of great purpose.
May you persevere in the face of difficulty knowing that nothing good ever comes easy.
And may you live a life enriched by a love for your fellow man such that no person is ever the same after having known you.
Thank you, God bless you, and Gig'em 2005.