Commencement 2013 Full of Honors, Celebration And Sage Advice For Future Leaders
'The world is going to continue to globalize,' reminded keynote speaker George R. Roberts '66 P'93
George R. Roberts ’66 P’93, co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and its co-chairman and co-chief executive officer, delivered the keynote address at the College’s 66th Annual Commencement ceremonies on May 18. Roberts spoke about his years at CMC and his experience in the business world, imparting advice on success and leadership to the graduates before the conferring of degrees amid shouts and cheers from the graduates and their loved ones on Pritzlaff Field.
CMC President Pamela B. Gann also gave her final remarks to graduates as president, and Matthew Wissa ’13 gave the class presentation. Thirty graduates received Phi Beta Kappa honors this year. Commencement activities included the Hooding Ceremony for Master’s in Finance graduates, the ROTC Commissioning ceremony, and the reception for graduates, family and friends at Parents Field.
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Success in a “flatter” world
During his keynote address, Roberts’ words blended intimacy with candor as he compared his experiences as a CMC graduate in the 1960s with the changes that have taken place in the world over the past five decades.
“When I look at you all and try to imagine what your lives will be like 47 years from now, it’s hard to imagine,” he said. “What I can tell you is that the world is going to continue to globalize. It’s going to get ‘flatter,’ as the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman calls globalization. Technology is going to accelerate and there’s going to be more competition….”
Yet he also sounded an encouraging note for the grads.
“But there are opportunities out there for you [and] you all have the benefit of graduating from one of the best schools,” he assured them. “You are ready to compete with the rest of the world, but you must be willing to embrace change and have an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Roberts also exhorted the graduates to put their best effort into everything they do, whether it’s a big project or a small, simple one because, he said, “if you can’t do the simple jobs right, you’ll never be trusted with the harder ones.”
He drew a laugh from the crowd as he recalled his early days, working at Bear Stearns in Manhattan. He said he gave the impression of being extremely dedicated and industrious because he’d arrive very early every morning and always leave late in the evening. The reason? He said he wanted to avoid the unpleasant heat in the New York subways.
Those long days, however, were decisive in his own career: As a result, he became acquainted with another early riser at Bear Stearns, Jerry Kohlberg, and they struck up a friendship that led Kohlberg to join with Roberts and Roberts’ cousin Henry R. Kravis ’67 to create KKR.
“I don’t expect you to remember me or anything I’ve really said,” Roberts said later, near the end of his speech, “but I would ask you to remember words uttered by Winston Churchill. He said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
ROTC commissioning ceremony: An honorable 1%
Earlier in the day, a commissioning ceremony for ROTC cadets was held on campus in McKenna Auditorium.
“I don’t believe this group would be up here today if it weren’t for all the family, friends, and supporters out there,” said keynote speaker U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic to a packed audience.
Among the 38 cadets gathered onstage to receive the gold bars of a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army were four CMC seniors — Eliot Adams, Rachel Cone, Chelsea Layman, and Kyle Woods. The other graduating cadets from the Golden Lions Battalion, which Slavonic praised as the “largest west of the Mississippi,” came from schools including Azusa Pacific University, CSU San Bernardino, Cal Poly Pomona, and Pomona College.
Parents and other family members joined each cadet onstage to pin the gold bars on their shoulders and congratulate them. The pinning was followed by an old Army tradition, the Silver Dollar salute, and brief remarks from each newly-commissioned officer.
“I wouldn’t have made it through these four years without my family,” acknowledged a grateful Adams, who majored in International Relations and was commissioned into the Army Reserves as a Military Intelligence officer.
During Slavonic’s address, he asked the audience to acknowledge an important number concerning today’s U.S. military.
What is it? 1 %.
“Only 1% serve in the military today. 1% keep the other 99% safe,” he said, looking at the cadets. “1 % volunteer freely, every year, and make sacrifices and efforts on behalf of the rest of us.” He commended them for volunteering to begin their service in a world where the dangers posed by groups like Al Qaeda are very different from what he and older veterans have faced in their careers (Slavonic’s own career spans Vietnam, Desert Storm/Shield, and Iraqi Freedom).
What’s also different for today’s cadets? How the public views the uniform of a member of the U.S. military, Slavonic said.
“When I first wore my uniform, I was told to take it off and wear civilian clothes whenever I went out in public,” he said. “But that’s not true today. People will walk up to you and want to shake your hand because of all that you do. It shows how much trust your country has in you.”