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Keynote Remarks by U.S. Representative John E. Sweeney

Keynote Remarks by U.S. Representative John E. Sweeney
Hudson Valley Community College
50th Commencement
9 a.m. McDonough Sports Complex
Saturday, May 22, 2004

My message in part is simple.

I've had some successes in my life – and in almost each instance – they are connected to my experience here at HVCC – not once, but twice.

You see, essentially I wasn't particularly successful, or focused my first time here. But because it's as special a place and offers us all such a unique opportunity … I came back.

I was such a great student in the few weeks – I've been experiencing some real HVCC Viking karma, flashing back to my studious days here at Hudson Valley.

The same ones, the same college experience, I'm sure each and every graduate today has shared with their parents in countless phone calls, e-mails, conversations and visits home.

Experiences, like attending every scheduled class, and sitting in on others just for fun of it; like passing up tickets to concerts at the Pepsi in favor of studying in the library ‘til the wee hours; like volunteering to research papers for professors Bill Crone in Biology, Allan Joseph, and Nancy Howe Ford with no extra credit; like toeing the line, doing everything I was told – all work, no play.

Boy, I'm so perfect, I'm sure all of you were, too?

But I know better, and like so many of you, I'm here today, proud to know that at HVCC we have a place where we learned more about ourselves, more about others, and prepared for a brave – and very different – new world.

Because one of the unique aspects about Hudson Valley itself is that it offers a chance to advance for some, who opportunity may have otherwise have passed by … chance to apply themselves, test themselves, discover, grow, and have a shot at reaching their dreams, their true potential.

Just ask Joyce Hughes-Carr, a graduate of Hudson Valley's physicians assistant program, who moved from helping individual patients to improving New York's delivery of health services, along the way starting the first school-based health clinics in the history of our state.

Or ask John Gray, an honors graduate of Hudson Valley who\'s helped change the face of broadcast journalism here in the Capitol Region with reports that have earned him top honors in the industry ... and whose volunteer work with Special Olympics, Juvenile Diabetes, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and others have earned for the him the honors of a thankful community.

Or Milagro Delgado, a distinguished Hudson Valley graduate in security administration whose work in criminal justice and the community earned her YMCA Woman of the Year honors, and the thanks of an entire community.

As you know, these have been very long and trying days in Washington, DC, as we determine how best to keep the economy strong, our health and welfare assured, and our nation safe.

In Congress, the debate has been deliberate at times, heated at others, but always geared to taking on the challenge – and the dangers – of a new world.

A world where a show profiling an apprentice and another cataloguing an averaged Joe besieged by dream dates can compete with \"Friends\" and "60 Minutes" for weekly ratings; a world where 24/7 cable news vies with the unknown yet unbridled power of broadband technology on the Internet; a world where sometimes the relationship between Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt is more newsworthy than that of President Bush and Ariel Sharon; a world where change is expected, uncertainty is anticipated, and strength is measured in the ability to apply yourself each and every day.

We also live in a world where we're exposed to a whole new vocabulary, complete with new words and grammar. New nouns like bio-diversity and first responders, new verbs like triangulate and blog, new expressions like "shock and awe" … "strategery."

And, courtesy of the junior senator from Massachusetts, "I voted for it before I voted against it."

But even with a changing world, something will remain constant: All of you who are prepared to graduate today need to know that years from now, you'll appreciate this moment – and your years here – more than you can ever imagine.

Because this is a measure of you.

Because you put it on the line … and it counted for something.

Because you learned just as much from disappointment as you did triumph.

Because you were here during a very historic time in the annals of the college, the nation, and the world.

Because you dared to be something, do something, accomplish something, stand for something.

In fact, today is a proud day for all of us. For Hudson Valley parents who loved you enough to make your life their own life's mission …

your successes a source of personal pride …

your challenges a constant reminder of their lifelong commitment to you…

your promise, the guarantee that their legacy, will be carried on, and built on, by you.

Today I'd like to offer the graduating class of 2004 seven ideas that may help them navigate the many challenges ahead – seven principles that have served your parents well, Hudson Valley alumni well, that in my own life has made all the difference in getting ahead, staying ahead, and feeling ahead.

1. Never be afraid to tell it like it is, not from the arrogance of certainty but from the confidence of candor.

If a friend needs advice others have been unwilling to provide, look ‘em in the eye and tell them what you think….

Even if it's something that doesn't reinforce the other person's point of view… even if it runs against the grain…

Because the power of candor, and your power to affect another person's life, is an awesome thing.

2. Say what you believe and believe what you say.

As Mark Twain once remarked, "it'll surprise some, and amaze the rest." And he was right.

Let people know when you commit to something, it'll get done.

When you believe in something, it'll be pursued.

When you say something, that others can take it to the bank.


Because it speaks to the core of who you are and how others see you, grounded in a reputation you have precious few chances to build, to enhance, and most importantly to preserve.

3. Don't always look for the easy answer, the easy way out, because those paths are crowded with those who choose to follow, not lead.

Early on, in your post-Hudson Valley years, you're going to make a choice. Do you seek only comfort in numbers, or are you willing to strap on a backpack and move forward on your own.

Do you seek only to learn how others have done it, or are you ready to use those lessons to chart a courses all your own.

Are you a leader, or a follower?

In an age where the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, where rewards for hard work are matched by those for hard imagination, this choice will determine much about your fate and destiny.

Choose well.

Maybe this is the time to share something with you.

Years ago, I was a student here – but at first the only thing I was sure of was playing ball – baseball – so much so that I overlooked the importance of challenging my mind and my heart.

So I left here for a few years, bumping around, in not so graceful a fashion, in search of inspiration. Then, one day in talking with my dad, it hit me. I had missed the most important part of the Hudson Valley experience, and so I came back… worked hard… and used Hudson Valley as a constant reminder of the potential that exists in each of us.

Today, I can say with confidence that without Hudson Valley, I'd still be auditioning for baseball tryouts in towns off the beaten path, or still simply bumping around without hope or prospect.

4. Take your friendships seriously, because they bookmark where you've been, where you're going, and who you are.

It's all too easy these days to come and go, to lose touch with the parts no one else will ever understand or give tribute to. Friendships are integral, it is a gift, treasure them.

5. Some practical advice as you enter the marketplace, keep three words in mind as you choose where to start.

We all dream about making the big bucks, but what you really should think about is finding the dream job.

Remember the three C's… because they're the truest road map to fulfilling your professional dream:

Culture: look for a place where you're valued, where your ideas and input are welcomed, where you're evaluated on your follow-through and performance, not the way you part your hair or the clothes you wear.

Compensation: know that the payoff must be measured in more than dollars; that total compensation is not only about perks and benefits but about things that'll never show up on any pay stub.

Challenge: if you get up every day excited about working, about getting back in play, you're on the right path. If not, stop, consider your options, and be prepared to move on them. Your potential is unlimited, and don't let anyone, I mean anyone, tell you differently.

6. Always, always be a Yankees fan…, because their class and their legacy of competing makes them winners. Regardless of what the pundits say… regardless of their place in the standings… regardless of what our friends in Boston proclaim to be the proper order of the world…

To them I say I'll take Jeter's bat and Giambi's blast and Rivera's heat and Posada's heart every day of the week, every season of the year, and every year in a lifetime.

Always be a Yankees fan.

7. Love your family. They'll be there for you when it counts the most. As your touch pad, your cheering section, your tower of strength.

There, when the world applauds and rewards your talents.

There, when life's greatest moments are to be found.

There, also when times are not as smooth, life not as balanced, confidence not as assured.

And know that as you grow older, they're going to need you more than ever, for guidance and support.

Be ready, and be there, for that power of love and family has no equal on the face of the earth.

Telling it like it is… meaning what you say… not always taking the easy way… taking friendships seriously… landing the dream job… loving your family… being a Yankees fan, forever…

Seven lessons, seven ways to chart your own course.

Finally, I want to say something to your families, your parents, your brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles… those that have been together with you, supporting you, appreciating you, all these years.

Know that these young adults, these graduates of Hudson Valley, will carry a part of each of you in them.

Know that this institution has provided the kind of learning and inspiration that'll serve them well as they meet the challenges of the world.

Finally, know that ALL of us are invested in them, and rooting them on. For they carry our dreams, shoulder our hopes, and lay proper claim to protecting and championing our future.

Two years from know I'll be sitting where you are, looking as my son John walks across this same stage, honoring not only his family, but himself.

Congratulations to the class of 2004. God speed, and from all of us, God bless.