FMIA: Lessons from 2022 Commencement Speeches by Tim Tebow, Tyler Perry, and More

Good morning.

FMIA: Lessons from 2022 Commencement Speeches by Tim Tebow, Tyler Perry, and More

Good morning. I am currently on vacation as you read this. Covid caused my wife and me to delay our 40th anniversary trip in Italy twice. We are now one day shy from 42 years of marriage. You can be sure that I have a cup of coffee or Chianti in my hand as you read this.

Today marks the beginning of the guest-column phase on Football Morning in America before training camp. My regular column will be back on July 18th, and I'll be at camp with the column of July 25, Normally, I make graduation speeches part of a spring column. But, I love them so much, and I saw some really great ones this year, that I decided to make them an independent column. Your reaction will be interesting.

Around this time of the year, I am asked "Why are the graduation speeches?" This is a football column." They have many lessons that I enjoy. A few years back, I was inspired by a Navy Admiral William McRaven. He said to University of Texas graduates, "If you want the world to change, make your bed." He said that every great achievement starts with small steps and requires discipline. Make sure you make your bed every morning when you get up.

This year's homage to football is started with some wise words by Louis Riddick (ex-NFL defensive back, current ESPNer). As with all of these, they are shortened. They begin with Riddick's motivation for football analysis and how it applies to people just starting their real-world lives.

You'll also hear wisdom from T-Swift, an autistic valedictorian, who doesn't speak, an NPR host with words about fear, Tim Tebow and Tyler Perry. Tim Cook (the Apple guy) is also on the show.

"For God’s sake, stop watching the news. It's all negative news. Instead, be the news.

Continue the show.

Editor's Note: Links to speech videos are provided for each date/location.

Louis Riddick (ESPN NFL analyst University of Pittsburgh Petersen Events Center), May 1

I wanted to share my thoughts about football with more people. All of this. All of this led me to a career as a media professional. I didn't go to media school. You may find yourself in a completely different place than you imagined.

It was a fortunate break. They were launching a new show at ESPN. Let me tell you a bit about the journey. When I started at ESPN, there wasn't a contract. They told me that they would pay $800 per show and give no guarantees of shows. You are not under contract. At-will employees are not your job. You will get more shows the better you do. You'll make more money if you have more shows.

I placed a bet myself. I replied, "Cool. I'm in."

From 2013 to 2021 I made $800 per show and became one of the voices on Monday Night Football. I can also tell you that those two jobs pay much more than $800 per show.

What does this all mean? What is the overriding message I want to convey? What is my overriding message?

Keep going. Reinvent. Be bold. Be surrounded by positive people who will positively support you. Prove your supporters right. Do not worry about doubters. They will always be there. Keep moving forward. Always strive to improve your performance. Use your creativity to keep pushing forward. Do you want to see success? Don't listen to anyone else. It will come from within you. It will be obvious when you find it. Don't let it go once you find it. Keep working. Keep at it. Enjoy it.

Elizabeth Bonker, Rollins College valedictorian Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla. Showalter Field, May 8, 2008

Elizabeth Bonker, a student with non-speaking autism, communicates only by typing.

Today we are celebrating the achievements of our Rollins College class 2022. Because I have a form autism that prevents me from speaking, I know a lot about shared achievements. I also have neuromotor problems that prevent me from being able to tie my shoes or button a shirt without assistance. This speech was typed with one finger and a partner who held a keyboard. I am one of few autistics that have been taught how to type. This one crucial intervention opened my mind to communication and education, much like Helen Keller.

Although my situation is extreme, I believe Rollins taught us all that sharing brings meaning to our lives. Mister Rogers was our favorite alumnus. I recall hearing this story in freshman year. A handwritten note found in his wallet after his death was discovered. It stated, "Life is meant to be served." It's so simple yet so profound.

No matter what our choices in life, we can all live a life that is of service to our families, our communities, or the wider world. The world cannot wait to see our light shining.

My call to action is now simple. Take a piece of your commencement program, and write "Life Is for Service" on it. Yes. You were given the pens to do it. Let's begin a new tradition. Post a photo to social media. You can then put the photo in your wallet or another safe place, much like Mister Rogers. When we meet up at our reunions, it is possible to talk about how our commencement letters reminded us of our responsibility to serve others. Much is expected of those who give much.

Today, I'd like to leave you with this quote from Alan Turing. He broke the Nazi encryption code in order to win World War II.

Taylor Swift, singer/songwriter New York University Yankee Stadium May 18

When I was 12, I began writing songs. Since then, it has been my compass and guide. My life has influenced my writing. All that I do is an extension of my writing. My love for the craft is what connects everything. It's the thrill of putting together ideas, narrowing them down, and then polishing it up at the end. Editing. You wake up in the middle night and throw out your old idea. Or a plot device to tie it all together.

It's why they call it a hook. Sometimes, a long string of words can entrap me. I have to be able to focus on the music or write it down until then. As a songwriter, it's difficult for me to stay focused or remain in one place too long. I have released 11 albums and switched from pop to country to pop and alternative to folk.

This may sound very songwriter-centric. In a way, we all are writers. We all write in different voices for different situations. Your Instagram stories are different than your senior thesis. Your boss will receive a different email than your best friend.

All of us are literary chameleons. It's amazing, I think. It's just another extension of the idea that we can be so many things at once. It can be overwhelming to figure out who and when you should be... and how to act to get to where you want.

I have good news for you: It is entirely up to YOU.

I have terrible news for you: You can do it!

Leila Fadel NPR reporter/host Northeastern University Boston Fenway Park, May 13

What I can say today is that fear should not stop you from thinking about the future. This is not about running down alleyways under gunfire. This is something I wouldn't recommend. This is the existential fear. That voice in your head telling you that you can't do it, the fear that prevents us from trying.

Accept the moments that you feel scared.

Why is it that I am speaking about fear in such a positive day? Fear gave me the ability to feel urgency and understand why I chose to offer a platform for those who were most in need. Although fear can be crippling, it can also serve as a motivator to do good in the world, even when it seems too difficult, too big or too impossible.

Maria Shriver, television personality University of Michigan (Ann Arbor Mich.). Michigan Stadium, April 30

Today, I want you to know that fear and certainty can be illusions. The belief that you are too small or that someone else is more courageous, bigger, or better than you is also a lie. Or that they know what is best for you. They don't. Your life, graduates is best chartered by your heart and mind. Your heart and mind.

What else could you call an illusion? This success is what your generation said it was. You shouldn't wait to find what lights you up. Graduating students, don't ever wait to find the thing that makes you feel alive.

The good news is that you don't need to. Your generation has been gifted the gift of a shredded guidebook and a wide-open field. Many of the things that used to be normal are gone. This is actually a gift. This uncertain time that you and the world are in is actually an amazing opportunity for you. What about those fears? These fears are a window into your courage. It's only for the brave.

We are a generation that is seeking the truth. Your energy, creativity, work ethic, drive, and passion are all needed. You are needed to unify our nation -- which so desperately needs it -- through your thoughts, words, and deeds. All of this work is for people who are afraid but take action.

Kamala Harris (U.S. vice president Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tenn.), Hale Stadium, May 7,

When I was your age, I knew that I wanted to tackle systemic problems from within the system. I also decided that I would use my personal experience and perspectives to find solutions and that I needed to be present in the decision-making rooms.

Graduates, we stand at the edge of a new frontier, where we build the platforms for the next stage of technology. We are also conducting research that could lead to the next great medical breakthrough, such as the cure for cancer, lupus, or lifesaving reforms in maternal healthcare. It is here that we are defining fundamental principles that will guide the 21st Century. We need your help in making these decisions.

These rooms are where I spend most of my time as vice president. I preside at debates in Congress. As Chair of the National Space Council, I consult with experts from the Goddard Space Flight Center. I host bilateral meetings at the White House with heads of state.

These rooms are where decisions are made. These are the rooms where decisions are made. This is what my mentors and family taught me early on.

We need graduates. You will be responsible for managing companies and making decisions about capital access. You will be a key figure in determining the country's global standing. You are needed to work in hospitals, courts and schools. You are needed to help shape the future technology. Your perspective, which is the sum of your intellect and lived experience, will make America stronger.

So, I advise you to be honest with yourself when you're in those rooms. Keep close to the values your grandparents, parents, pastors, and neighbors instilled into you. Follow your moral compass with conviction and courage. You all need to remember that you're not alone.

You can be sure that you will one day walk into a boardroom, courtroom, or even the Situation Room and realize you are the only one there who has lived your life. You must remember that you are not the only person in that room. Be aware that you are a part of the voices of all those in this room and on whose shoulders they stand.

Tim Tebow, ex-quarterback University of Florida (Gainesville Fla.) Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on April 29

I wish you success. But success should not be the end of your life. Because you already know what success means. You. Significance is about people. A life of meaning is more important than a successful life.

As you climb the ladders to your success, it will be easy. It'll be easy to lose sight of your true significance. It's all about money and fame and power. Praise, promotion and platform are the only things that matter.

One of the most tragic forms of tragedy I see is when you succeed in everything that doesn't matter. You know what you have a chance to do? You have the chance to become really successful by helping others and loving those who can't help you.

Tyler Perry, actor and screenwriter, Emory University (Atlanta), Emory Triangle on May 9

My son and I were on the beach together. At the time, he was only four years old. We were walking along the beach. Because it's hot and the sun is shining down, I am trying to reach the end of the beach. He is behind me. He is jumping and falling. He's jumping. He's jumping. Please, son, sit down. I want to be seated.

My son kept jumping and jumping. Finally, I stopped and turned to him. It was all over his face. It was on his face. It's on his legs. It's on his legs.

I was moved by something he said to me. He said, "Look Papa. I'm following your footsteps." He was attempting to keep up with me by jumping. It brought me to tears when I thought about it. This innocent and beautiful little creature wanted to be like his father.

I told him to hold my hand. Hold onto my hand. "We're going together to walk up the beach." We walked up and down the beach. When we reached the end, I told him to "Look!" He turned around and saw my footprints. I replied, "You made your footsteps and Papa made mine."

Today, I want you to know that this is your life. Your parents'. Yours and no one else's. Your life is yours to live. Do not be afraid to chart your course. Do not be afraid to take your own path. Do not be afraid to follow your own path and leave your mark.

Some of you may be trying to dig in. A few people are trying to dig in and want to leave their footprints. It could be that you are trying to dig into the air. Some of you were made to fly.

Tim Cook, Apple CEO GallaudetUniversity (Washington, D.C. Field House, May 13

Gallaudet University is the only university where deafblind, hard-of hearing students can live and learn bilingually in English and American sign language.

Your questions today are no different from the ones that drive much of the world at this time in history. Many people feel that the pandemic has changed not only the way they live their lives but also the way they think about what it means to live. People are asking themselves big questions: What is my true purpose in life? Who are you really looking to be?

It is, I believe, at the heart of all of it one of humanity's most fundamental questions. What is it that you need to live a life of meaning and fulfillment?

It is impossible to answer this question. This includes me. There is no iPhone feature that could save me. AI is great, but not very good.

Yet, I do have one piece of important advice that I would like to share. It's so important, it's my only piece of advice today. This is it: Lead with your values, no matter what you do.

What I mean by leading with your values is that you should make all decisions, big and small, based on deep understanding of who and what you believe.

These aren't static things and you wouldn’t want them to be. As with all of us, you will grow and learn more each year. There are some foundational values that can be considered bedrock. These are the core of your personality and character. These are the values you should live by.

Sean Payton, retired football coach Loyola University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena. May 14

We are constantly trying to improve our ability to predict who will succeed. It's not just about talent. Talent certainly played a part in it. Angela Duckworth, a doctor, studied the topic and coined the term "grit". It's the subject of a book. She has since added another book.

"Grit scores" was what we started to call it. It's the ability to see things through. It is not an easy task. Each of us have reached a point in our lives where we feel satisfied.

If there is one thing I can share with you that I believe has a lot to do either with my success or our success, it would be the ability to always get back up. You will be knocked down many times. Some of you are already there. One third of you are among the first to attend college. That's unbelievable.

Tub Thumping is a song from the '90s. I'm not dating but it's from a band called Chumbawumba. "I get knocked to the ground, but I get back up. "You're never going to keep me down," I researched. It's quite political, evidently. That would be the song that I would sing. Because it always returns to the same lyrics.

"I fall, but I rise again." You're never gonna keep me down."

This would be my wish for the class.

Daniel Lubetzky is the founder of KIND bars High Point University, High Point, N.C. Roberts Hall Lawn May 7

"My main piece of advice is to have daily habits that are rooted in curiosity and courage. Although it may sound simple, it is a very difficult task. It is easier to surround yourself only with people who will tell you what you want, rather than what your needs are. Instead, choose curiosity. Be critical about everything. It is important to be able to have difficult conversations. This will allow us to grow. Try to imagine yourself in the shoes of others. Learn to be more open-minded. Imagine the amazing world that we will create if we all work together to treat one another with compassion, courage, and curiosity.

Tom Junod is a writer University at Albany (Albany N.Y.) Bob Ford Field May 14

When a story is progressing well, I suddenly see and hear bits of it all around me. This gives me clues about the next step. For example, when I began writing this speech, Nia, my daughter, was upstairs listening to music. She doesn't like the music I like. That morning, however, I heard Tears for Fears' song "Welcome To Your Life" and thought, "That's a great line for your commencement speech." Perhaps I should use it.

You can see that listening is key to understanding your story. Listening to your story will teach you how to listen.

How do you know if you're actually listening to what you need to hear?



Hair that is too high on your neck or arms.

These are the things your body does to let your mind know you have just heard, seen, or read something.

They are not possible to stop, they can't be stopped, and they will never lie. They are you. If you don't feel goosebumps in your life, it's a sign that you are not living the right way.

Dwyane Wade (retired basketball player Marquette University, Milwaukee) AFI Amphitheater on May 23

Is there anyone here who fears the unknown? Raise your hand.

When I feel truly afraid, I make space for solitude. I define solitude as "alone", not lonely, as some might think. But alone in my thoughts. It is in solitude that I find clarity. It is a place where there is no judgement and I can get to know my true self. In solitude, I can find understanding and solutions. This is where I can visualize my goals and create the plans to achieve them. You are the only one who can stop you from creating the life that you desire.

Here's a brief story about basketball.

In the 2011-12 Miami Heat season, I was 30 years old. LeBron James was 27, one of the most talented players the league had ever seen. I was there with him. After a disappointing championship defeat to the Dallas Mavericks, we were in the midst of a new season. There is much soul-searching after losing. I took a look at myself, including my game, age and injuries. This self-awareness allowed me to recognize that I had to stop being The Man. We needed one leader if we wanted to win more championships. Although it seems obvious now, LeBron will be entering his 100th NBA season.

This was a team decision and one of the most difficult professional decisions I have ever made. It was also the right decision. The team went on to win the championships in two of the three subsequent seasons. Because of its success, I share it because it was possible only through solitude and self-awareness.

Kobe Bryant, my friend and mentor, once said that "Those are the times when you get up in the morning and work hard. Those times when your work is done late and you stay up all night. Those times when you don't feel like it, when you're too tired and don't want push yourself to do anything, but you do it anyway. That's the dream." It's the ultimate dream.

Abby Wambach (activist/retired World Cup champion Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles) Loyola Westchester campus grass, May 7

The world is vast. It can sometimes feel overwhelming to see the news. It can be difficult to know where to begin. Don't forget the small world as you travel out into the big one. You shouldn't forget the small worlds that you can touch, hear, and see. You are only obligated to make small changes in the worlds that you see, hear, and touch.

Please don't waste your time watching the news. It's all negative news. Instead, be the news. LMU, the good news is that there are many worlds waiting for your contribution. Make a difference in the world by helping others to do the same as you would. You can flip some damn tables.

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