I would first like to personally welcome all of you to the beginning of the new academic year. This clean slate offers us all a tremendous opportunity to build on the academic and extra-curricular experiences of the past. For all of those just now joining the family that is Hobart and William Smith Colleges, this…opportunity…is at your doorstep more than ever before. The expectations for the first-year classes as well as the greater student body are high, so the question to all of us is quite simple…how are you going to put yourself in a position to exceed those expectations?
What I would like to do today is simply impart some of the wisdom, if you will, that I have gained through the lessons learned and experiences that I’ve had in our home by the lake. Each of you will encounter similar situations to my own…some will begin in the classroom, many more, and the ones I consider to be the most impacting and influential, live and breath in the clubs, organizations, residence halls, fraternities, athletic teams, study abroad programs, and internships. What matters most today is not what you learn sitting in a classroom, but rather what you do with that learning…how you turn an education into a reality that impacts the lives of others.
I think oftentimes, many of us here at the Colleges take for granted the opportunity that’s afforded to us. What stands before all of us is an adventure that only 1% of the world’s population has the privilege of embarking upon, a college education. Yet, there is something even more unique about what Hobart and William Smith has to offer.
Throughout my time here at the Colleges, I have felt the effects of a liberal-arts education. The greatest lesson is this…if you are ready for the challenge; this place will push you and guide you to realize your dreams, and then catapult you to becoming whatever you want in life. Whatever that may be for you, and it will be different for everyone, there is one thing that remains the same…a liberal arts education will teach you how to think. It will feed your imagination, and provide you every single chance to pursue your passions.
So why is this so important? In a world filled with the most complex problems, scenarios, and decisions…better defined as opportunities…those with the ability to think beyond the problem will inevitably find…and oftentimes create the solution. With the skills and lessons that you will learn here at the Colleges, you will be one step closer to changing the world. Now I know that sounded cliché, changing the world, but if you never aim for the stars…you’ll never reach them. However, learning how to think is not the only secret ingredient. Before you leave Hobart and William Smith, you must learn how to perform and execute. You will have the ability to reason both quantitatively and qualitatively…to this you must add resolve. Do whatever it takes to find what it means to be great…to find both success and happiness in your own life. Never ever be out-hustled.
So if you learn how to think in the classroom…where do you learn how to “do?” To truly test yourself and find your strengths and weaknesses…you must become comfortable with the uncomfortable. Go to a different country where you can’t speak a word of the native language…you’ll quickly find out what you’re made of. Push yourself to find an internship that will push you to find what is truly important to you. In everything you do…remember that the quality of an individual is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. There is a whole world out there…just waiting for the leaders of tomorrow. How will you prepare yourself today for tomorrow’s sunrise?
This past summer, I interned with Yahoo! in Sunnyvale, CA. When I arrived on site, I quickly realized that I had much to learn. I had no previous training in performance marketing or corporate development strategy (the two areas of my internship). At the end of the summer, I gave a presentation to the members of Yahoo!’s executive team and made recommendations for future Yahoo! marketing campaigns. So how did I get from point A to point B?
One of the greatest lessons I have learned throughout my time at the Colleges is how you must never underestimate the power of both asking questions, but also listening. The most effective leaders always ask the tough questions, but always recognize when listening is more important than speaking. Throughout your academic career here, you’ll have the chance to do both. Be conscious of the fact that you will learn more from other people as you become more engaged in your experiences. You will be surprised how much you can learn about yourself just by listening to your peers and professors.
I know I have given you much to think about, but I must leave you will one final thought which has certainly helped me become the Hobart man I am today. There is much talk in today’s world about the importance of success. The pressures on the average student are growing along with the expectations that I spoke of earlier. Find what it means to be successful in your own life…but never be afraid to fail. Only by taking the biggest risks will you find true success. Do not allow anything to hold you back, especially the anxiety of failing. If you are passionate enough, no failure will stand in your way.
Take all of these lessons and use them whenever you can. I have complete faith in all of you, especially you first-years, that you will no doubt have better wisdom and lessons to impart on future members of the Hobart and William Smith family. So go out there, show everyone what you’re made of…play to win. Godspeed and good luck to you all in this new academic year. Thank you.
Adam Chaput ?07, Hobart student trustee, offered this address at Convocation 2006.
August 30, 2006