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Text of Fall Commencement Speech

By Jack Tinsley
Fort Worth Star-Telegram Vice President

Good morning/afternoon, President Marks, distinguished guests, graduates, ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honor for me to stand before you today at this institution which my friend and fellow alumnus Dan Rather has affectionately called "the Harvard on the Brazos."

I have many fond memories of Sam Houston. I received my degree and an ROTC commission 40 years ago last May on the turf of Pritchett Field, where the Bearkat football games were played.

It was a proud moment for me, as I know today is a proud moment for you graduates. And especially so for your parents who put a lot of thought and care and--lest we forget--MONEY into your education.

When a friend of mine heard I was to give this address, he sent me a cartoon with a quote that said, "The commencement speaker is like a corpse at a funeral. You can't have a commencement without one, but no one expects you to say much."

I will endeavor to be brief. If for no other reason that it has been reported that the No. 1 fear in America is having to make a speech. And the No. 2 fear is having to listen to one.

I grew up 90 miles from here in rural East Texas, the Pineywoods area of Angelina County, in a family of modest means. After high school, I worked on small newspapers for a year and a half to earn enough money to enter what was then Sam Houston State Teachers College. After one semester as a journalism major, I dropped out for lack of funds, went to work and returned the following fall. By working during college and during the summers, I was able to graduate in the class with which I entered. Along the way, I did a risqué monologue in the annual 1950s Press Capades revue that got me in trouble with the administration and necessitated that I move out of journalism. I went to the speech and drama Department, and completed my degree there.

I will be forever grateful to the late Dr. Charles Schmidt, the longtime speech and drama department chair who took me under his wing and provided advice and counsel and moral support.

My four years at this institution provided me with the basis for a successful newspaper career. I am now in my 37th year with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. My career at the Star-Telegram has included the winning of two Pulitzer Prizes during the almost 11 years I was executive editor. I am proud to say Sam Houston provided me with an excellent education, and this university has been fortunate to have leaders like Dr. Marks and retired president, Dr. Elliott Bowers.

As I have grown older, I believe I have grown wiser and I have learned what is truly important in life. At the top of this list is health, happiness and serenity, not necessarily money--though money is needed to pay the mortgage and to raise a family.

And it is not necessarily power and stature, though that usually comes with business or professional success.

For me, the most important focus of my life has become relationships--spiritual and human relationships.

No. 1 is my relationship with a higher power, in my case, Jesus Christ through whom there can be an everlasting life.

Second is the long-term relationship with my wife, Anne Miller, and our two children, Ben and Anna, who are now grown and working as journalists.

And, third, is the relationship with my employer, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, with my colleagues and friends.

My priorities were not always in the order I stated. For a long time I put job and pursuit of material success ahead of everything. But I learned that some of the time you miss being with your family can never be replaced.

Listen to what former first lady, Barbara Bush, told a Wellesley College graduating class:

"At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, (not) winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You WILL regret time not spent with a husband (or wife), a child, a friend, a parent."

The noted author, writer and evangelist, Josh McDowell, spent 60 hours preparing to give the address at his son's commencement at a California college. Then he stood up and said:

"My commencement message to you is: Always pursue an intimate love relationship with your future spouse and spend time with your children." He repeated: "Always pursue an intimate love relationship with your future spouse and spend time with your children." Then he repeated it again, said, "God bless," and sat down.

Success is often equated with the amount of money you amass. don't be misled by that. You can be successful without being rich. Former U. S. Education Secretary William Bennett said, "The real index of success is the kind of people we turn out to be."

Receiving your degree is a milestone achievement, but it is the beginning, not the end.

As you begin your careers, one thing you can expect is constant change.

My friend and another Sam Houston alumnus, Jon McConal, said it well: "You must prepare yourselves for the rocket pace of change."

The world into which you will be seeking your life, your further education and your work will be affected by change more than any other generation.

Not long ago, what you have learned in school was all you really needed to learn.

The phrase of the future will be "How can I learn more." It's like a cab driver told the tourist as they drove past the government archives building in Washington, D.C. The tourist looked at the carved words, "What is Past is Prologue," and he asked the cabbie what it meant. "It means," said the cabbie, "that you ain't seen nothin' yet."

You will work in new fields which don't exist today. Broad vision will be essential. Education, which nurtures the ability to master a subject through study and research, will be even more relevant in an economy driven by expanding knowledge and advancing technology--learning skills, thinking skills, technological skills will enable you to take advantage of future opportunities. And those who are ready will have a chance to do work that is more challenging and more rewarding than ever before.

The challenges you face are large.

But I ask you to face these challenges with the same confidence that David displayed when he faced Goliath. Everyone advised David to forget about confronting the enormous giant, saying, "He's so huge; there's no way you can win." To which David replied, "He's so huge, there's no way I can miss."

I am a firm believer that if you confront the challenges ahead with all the talent, knowledge and resolve in this room, there's no way you can miss!

The future is coming, But only you can decide where it's going.

Congratulations, and thank you.


Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Dec. 21, 1998
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