On Friday, May 12th, Tracey C. Jones had the honor of receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Central Penn College. In addition to receiving this prestigious recognition, also bestowed upon her Dad 14 years earlier, she had the good fortune to address the Class of 2017. In recognition of all the graduates embarking on new adventures as they leave their respective educational institutions, we'd like to share her remarks here. Best wishes to the Class of 2017!
"Thank you Central Penn College Board of Directors; Thank you President Dr. Karen Scolforo, Thank you Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Linda Fedrizzi-Williams. Thank you to the esteemed faculty and staff of Central Penn College; Thank you to the President of the Central Penn Alumni Association, Eric Gutshall, and to our Dean of Student Services and Emcee, Dave Baker. A special welcome to the parents, friends and family that have come to witness this important milestone, and a special welcome, of course, to our graduating class of 2017.
Fourteen years ago, my father accepted this same prestigious honor from Central Penn College, so he is especially on my mind today, more so than usual. He loved this school and all that it did to develop our future leaders.
My father always taught me the importance of continuing education and embracing a lifetime of learning. You see, he grew up in the Depression and flunked out of school after only making it through the 8th grade. He used to tell me that whenever he graduated from anything it wasn’t magna cum laude, it was laude how cum.
Growing up, I would accompany him on his speaking engagements and at the close of each one he would call me up on stage and we’d leave the audience with this routine:
Dad: Tracey, how are you?
Dad: Well, how are things going?
Me: I hope things don’t get any better!
Me: Because I’m so tired of being happy, it’s wearing me out!!
So on this day, I am not only happy, but blessed, honored, and truly humbled to receive this prestigious honor and to also have the good fortune to deliver a few thoughts to the one and only tremendous class of 2017!! In the few minutes I have with you today; I want to leave you with three words that will guarantee you success from your first job until your last breath.
The first word is LEGACY:
I am here because of the foundation my father set in place biologically, paternally, spiritually, and professionally. I stand tall because I am on the shoulders of so many greats that have gone before me to lift me up.
You are here today because people believed in you, and supported you, and critiqued, challenged, and corrected you. You are about to go out into the world as a representative of all that’s become a part of you. So make them proud. And remember that one of the greatest joys in life is to be able to return that favor and give someone else a hand up to greatness. None of us gets here on our own.
You can go through life in one of two ways: The first as if you deserve everything and owe nothing; the second as if you deserve nothing and owe everything. One is called entitlement and the other is called gratitude. And gratitude is what fuels a tremendous legacy. Thankfulness for what we get to contribute to and build on what someone else has started.
The second word is COMMUNITY:
As you move into the next realm of your lives setting personal goals and action plans, never forget that none of us is as smart as all of us. No matter how creative, innovative, resilient, or lucky you are, the only way to live life tremendously is to surround yourself with great people doing great things.
My father used to say, “Hang around thinkers and you’ll be a better thinker; hang around givers and you’ll be a better giver; hang around achievers and you’ll be a better achiever; hang around a bunch of thumb-sucking, complaining, griping, boneheads and you’ll be a better thumb-sucking, complaining, griping bonehead!”
And speaking of who you surround yourself with, always look for the common bonds, rather than the dividing points in others. I recently met with a friend who performed a make-shift psychological test on me. He placed four coins on the table: a penny, a nickel, a dime, and a quarter. He then instructed me to take a sheet of paper and write my observations about the coins. I wrote: they are all made of metal, they all have value, they are all historical, they are all round, and they all help us procure a good or service that we need or desire. When I showed him the paper he smiled. He said so many people take this simple little test and see only what’s different between the coins: their color, their economic worth, whether they are shiny or tarnished, or their comparative size.
So when you go out in the world, look to see where we all connect, not where we divide. Remember, unity isn’t uniformity. And my life experience thus far has shown me that we basically agree on 90 percent, so let’s draw together on that and respect the 10 percent we may not be in complete agreement on. Underneath it all we each have tremendous value and worth, we all have a history, and we all have a head and a tail! So let’s never forget we are all running the same human race and on the same team.
The third word is PERSONALITY:
As you move from this stage onto the next, you are going to begin developing your leadership personality. Your academics may be ending, but the real schooling is about to begin! It’s called, LIFE. And it’s called life because that’s how long you’re going to be enrolled in it for….LIFE.
My father always said, “You’ll be the same person five years from now that you are today except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” Make continuing education a lifestyle. Always stay on the journey to keep growing and transforming by being open to new experiences and developing a healthy relationship with failure.
Psychologists say the greatest personality trait we can have is a “regenerative” nature. That means when bad things happen, we are able to turn them into something good. That means ceasing negativity and hostility, and putting down guilt and shame. In essence, no more “stinkin’ thinkin’”. And as you master your ability to go from being beat up to up-beat, you are developing your adaptive nature. This will ensure that you, and everyone near and dear to you will not just survive, but actually thrive.
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” You are now about to put to use the innate talents you were born with and the learned skills you have acquired as you embark on the literal journey of a lifetime; the quest to find out why you were born.
In closing, I hope and pray for wisdom and strength for this graduating class of 2017 to meet and surpass the challenges that will come its way. Always remember, life happens just outside your comfort zone so if things are scary and seem, at times, chaotic, you’re doing it right. Thank you for listening and for allowing me to share in this amazing milestone in your lives."