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Text of Arnold Allemang Speech
At 2001 Spring Commencement

Arnold AllemangArnold Allemang 

Thank you, Dr. Marks. Good morning/afternoon, distinguished faculty, graduates and guests. It's good to be in Huntsville, Texas, and particularly good to be at Sam Houston State.

I've lived and worked all over the world, conducted business and daily life in different cultures; however, I've never lost my East Texas accent. I'd like to share an experience with you . . .

A few years ago, when I was living in Zurich, Switzerland, I was in Houston staying at the Westchase Hilton on Westheimer. Our global engineering office is nearby on the Sam Houston toll way, and I had some meetings there, as well as at the hotel. Mid-day, I had a break, so I decided to get a haircut at the salon in the hotel. So, I showed up, there was a young lady available, I climbed into her chair, outlined what I needed, and she started. Now, you know these ladies clip and chat. So her first question was, "What brings you to Houston . . . vacation? "No," I answered, "business." "Oh, so where do you come from?" "Well, I currently live in Zurich, Switzerland." The clipping stopped . . . she walked around to the front of the chair . . . looked me intently in the eyes and said, "You know, it's amazing, you don't have a trace of an accent!" It's always good to be back in Texas where I don't have a trace of an accent.

I'm humbled, but also honored to be here today addressing the 2001 graduating class of Sam Houston State University. It's been a few years since my own graduation ceremony from Sam Houston (36 years to be exact), and it's a very different world today.

I graduated from high school in Saratoga, Texas, in 1961. There were twenty in my graduating class, four of us went on to college, and we all came to Sam Houston. Three of us live and work within approximately 50 miles of that high school today. I'm the exception for that generation, but probably more the norm for what your experience will be. Some of you will choose to stay close to home, but for others, there is a whole new set of options to fulfill your personal dreams.

Your time will be remembered as a time of employment change, when thousands of people choose to break with tradition and try something different. It's like the gold rush days, only this time, people are staking their claims within the illusory world of the Internet. There is no sense of economic desperation among the new breed of '49ers, but rather a sense of adventure.

You can start to work for one company in one city, and find yourself in another country and culture while still working for the same company. Or, you can take your skills and apply them in an entirely different field.

You can work by communicating and working electronically with people all over the world in ways we never thought possible 10 or even five years ago.

But, I think you'll agree, that despite the unprecedented change and seemingly limitless opportunity that characterize the world we live in, there are a lot of things that are still the same. In the next few minutes, I'd like to share with you a few of my observations about what, in my opinion, has been, and will remain the same throughout time.

One of life's important lessons that remains the same is to never burn your bridges. With today's truly global reach, it seems to be a common occurrence to cross paths with people from your past. In our mobile society, the world has become smaller, and we make and refresh acquaintances in the most unexpected and peculiar ways. The relationships you cultivate throughout your life will only expand your options because building relationships creates success.

I have learned that no matter how much talent an individual has, one person alone cannot do it all. Our success as a human race depends on how we work together, not just on our individual skills.

You may have heard the expression that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." This is as true in a team sport, in which every player brings different strengths, as it is in a work situation, in which team members add their expertise to solve complex problems that are insurmountable by one person. Partnerships between two or more people help promote communication, understanding and new approaches to challenges.

My hope is that you will develop relationships and partnerships that will help improve our world. Whether through your work, your family life or volunteering in your community, I hope you will work toward improving our society, our environment and our economy.

Keep your hearts and minds open to the impact you can make ... individually and together. We're depending on you to lead us into new ways of thinking and acting that will solve our world's challenges.

Another of life's constant lessons is life-long learning. Although some of you may not realize it yet, you have a lifetime of learning still ahead. In order to adapt to changes in your job, your family and everyday life, you will need to constantly learn and apply new skills.

Life-long learning is critical to success in life and at work. People today play a greater role in managing their own learning and career opportunities. With electronic technologies to deliver training, we no longer have to rely on classroom training delivered only when enough people are available to attend. Through advances in technology, we can now take training when we need it - when it is convenient for us, and when we have the opportunity to apply it.

Employers must be committed to providing people the necessary training to develop long-term, multi-skilled opportunities, and then rewarding them for innovative thinking. We must continually learn just to keep up with the break-neck pace of change in today's world.

To summarize, if you can build a life of valuable relationships and a mindset of life-long learning, even when change is fast and furious, you will be ahead of the game, in my opinion.

But that's not the only observations I have had in my life. Before I conclude, I want to quickly share a few additional ones with you in the form of advice. And, here's the first one . . .

  • Always listen to advice - it's free and you never know when you'll get some that makes good sense. You can always make up your own mind about following it.
  • Only you can determine your definition of success - don't play the game of life by anyone else's definition.
  • Surround yourself with people you can trust and learn from - and then LISTEN to them.
  • You always have a choice, maybe not in which events occur in your life, but in how you react to those events. What you choose to learn from the experiences in your life defines your character.
  • Do what you enjoy, and enjoy what you do. A passion for what you do and a sense of fun will see you through the rough spots. And whatever your job, perform it as if you own the company.
  • Set goals for yourself - in your personal life, and in your career. But don't be afraid to do something that isn't "in the plan" - sometimes that will be the best way to reach your ultimate goal.
  • Take a chance, and give others a second chance.
  • Take time for all the things that are important to you.
  • Always strive to improve yourself, and never underestimate yourself, because only you can place limits on what you can achieve.
  • Be someone who knows, the only true failure comes in not trying at all, and the best achievement is in learning about others and yourself.

While you've been at Sam Houston State, I hope you've learned that being in college isn't just about learning the in's and out's of your field of expertise. It's about building life's foundations. That includes relationships, skills, talents, knowledge, and even validating and cultivating the values and beliefs that will carry you through the rest of your life.

What you have learned and the relationships you have built in your life - both inside and outside the classroom - are the blocks on which your future experiences will be built.

Whatever you choose to do from this point forward, you have the benefit of an almost borderless society. Whether you elect to pursue further formal education or you choose to start your career, there are opportunities like never before.

And, as you prepare to close this chapter of your life and begin a new one, please keep in mind that you are the workers, parents, community volunteers and leaders of the future. I am truly excited about the great adventures that lie ahead of you.

And, whatever your future may hold for you, I hope you are looking forward to it with excitement, anticipation, and you reflect back on the time you have spent at Sam Houston, the relationships you have built, and the lessons you have learned with respect and gratitude, as I do.

Thank you.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
May 5, 2001
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