May 31, 2014
"Wow. I'm always a little apprehensive when I'm being introduced. And I don't think
I've ever had a more glowing introduction than that. It always worries me a little
bit because I've always been afraid that I won't be able to live up to the introduction.
In fact, I remember one talk I gave not too long ago the person stood up and gave
this glowing, long introduction. And I was sitting there thinking, 'Oh, Lord, I'm
never going to be able match up to this.' As my apprehension grew I glanced at the
program, and there was a typographical error on my title. My title now is Senior
Political Analyst at Fox News. But analyst had been spelled A-N-A-L-I-S-T. I thought,
Senior Political 'Analist,' I might be able to measure up to that. (laughter)
Thank you, President Lindgren. Thank you, Randolph-Macon College for the singular
honor you have bestowed upon me. I am delighted to be in the company of my fellow
honorary degree recipients and especially so to be with my old friend and much-respected,
beloved colleague, Brian Lamb. So thank you for having me here.
I always try in these speeches to say something of relevance to the graduates. It
was nearly 50 years ago, as President Lindgren described, that I graduated. And
I thought, 'What do I have in common with these graduates?' And I think we have
one thing in common. You don't know what I'm going to say here. And in fact, neither
do I. (laughter)
I want to tell you about someone. When I was a correspondent in the Washington Bureau
of ABC News back in the 1980s, a young woman came to us from the University of Virginia
where I went. I don't think I would have known that she went there if we hadn't
had that in common and talked about it. And she took an entry level job at our bureau.
And that meant that she did the lowliest of jobs. She went out for coffee. She did
Xeroxing. She answered the telephone. There's a lot of that in entry level jobs.
But she did all these jobs with uncommon cheer. She did them very well. She got
them right. And she was, on top of that, cheerful. She was wonderful on the telephone.
And everybody loved her. Her name was Katie Couric.
And I mention that to illustrate a point I want to make to you graduates today.
And that is, you are about to leave the world where you are seniors, you are graduates,
you are at the top of the school, and you're going to enter the work world which
is a very different place. Now, you will find that success in America at the time
is very democratic, with a small 'd.' It is open to nearly all. And while the education
you've received here at Randolph-Macon will never leave you, the habits installed,
the things you've learned, will be with you always. No one will ever take them away
from you. But the fact that you went here as opposed to somewhere else and received
one degree as opposed to another will cease very quickly to matter.
In fact, once you start in the work world it really won't matter very much at all.
Because in the work world you'll be working under people who are busy. And what
they're looking for is someone who can help them. And you will be assigned, in all
likelihood--whether it's a new job or an internship (many of you will go to internships;
this is a tough job market, and I understand that)--to a lot of small jobs.
And I heartily recommend to you that you do these small jobs, however tedious and
boring they will be, as well as you possibly can. Because whatever the job is, however
menial it may seem, it matters to someone above you that it be done properly. And
if you do so and do it cheerfully and well it will be noticed.
It will especially be noticed in such small things as your phone manners. Now, telephones
I know are being used in ways different from the ways they used to be. Landlines
are going away, and everybody is carrying a phone in their pocket or their hip.
They're communicating as much by text as by voice. I understand that. But in any
new job in any office you're going to be answering the telephone. When you do you
have a wonderful opportunity that you may not recognize to distinguish yourself
from others, and that is by having terrific phone manners.
Now, my father used to say to me when I was in my teenage years he hated the way
I answered the phone. He'd say, 'Look, put a little music in your voice.' I would
answer the phone, 'Hello.' (mumbling) Or some of you in your early jobs depending
on where you are: 'Hello, Al's Body Shop.' You can do better than that. Put a little
music in your voice. 'Hello! Good morning. Al's Body Shop. This is Steve.' 'Al's
Body Shop. This is Ellen.'
The reason why that's important is that it's cheerful, and it makes a good impression.
But the other thing is you don't know who's on the other end of the phone. And if
you respond well and with a cheerful greeting and are exceedingly polite to the
person on the other end of the phone, and you take a message if you must and you
call that person by name, that person is going to be impressed with you. Because
an awful lot of young people don't do that. So think about that.
Small jobs, I should tell you, can lead to big jobs. That's a small job. But you
never know where it might lead you.
In fact, I learned a hard lesson in phone manners back in my ABC News days. I was
covering the transition from the Bush Administration to the Clinton Administration.
I was in Little Rock, Arkansas. In those days I had covered President Bush in his
unsuccessful reelection bid. And my colleague, the famous –perhaps not to you graduates
because this is a long time ago—the very famous, very boisterous Sam Donaldson had
covered the Clinton campaign. (laughter)
And I went over to our station and Sam went back to Washington. I was sitting in
the work space that we were using in our affiliate station in Little Rock one day.
We had a telephone system set up for us where somebody was answering the phones
and I got paged. I picked up the phone. They said, 'You have a phone call.' 'Who
is it?' I said. And the voice said, 'It's Charlton Heston.' Some of you may not
have heard of Charlton Heston, but he was an extremely famous and successful actor.
He played in huge movies, Ben Hur and other famous movies of that era.
I no more thought this was Charlton Heston than the man on the moon. I assumed it
was Sam Donaldson calling. So I picked up the phone and I said, 'What the 'F' do
you want?' And I didn't say 'F.' The voice on the other end said, 'Mr. Hume, this
is Chuck Heston.' And I said, 'Oh my God.'
Well, it turned out Charlton Heston was a conservative, and he was chairing a panel
at a conference that the political journal National Review was hosting.
And he wanted me to be on the panel. By this time I was stammering, 'Mr. Heston.'
He said, 'Brit, please call me Chuck.' And I said, 'I can no more call you Chuck,
sir, than I could call Moses 'Mo.'
So I learned a hard lesson about phone manners. Believe it or not they're important
and so are all the other little jobs that you will be assigned to do. So keep that
in mind as you go.
The other thing I want to mention to you that I think is important is, when you're
young, particularly in your 20s, time goes by so slowly. One of my granddaughters
just turned 15. And there's a picture of me holding her as an infant, and it seems
to me like it was about three or four years ago. As you get older time goes by more
quickly. And the people you're working for are experiencing time more quickly in
those early years than you will be. And there's a temptation sometimes to think
the world is passing you by.
You have a job and you've had it a while, and you think you've learned all you can
learn from it. You'll think, 'Wow, I need to move on.' And maybe you do. Very often
you work some place for a while and you're doing a good job, and the people you're
working for are very happy with it. Maybe they want to keep you in that job, and
you may not get the advancement you deserve. Sometimes you just have to pick up
and go and move onto something else.
But be careful with that because time will hang heavy on your hands. And there's
a temptation to believe, 'oh, no,' the world is passing me by.
There's an old saying that opportunity only knocks once. That's bunk. The same opportunity
may only knock once, but in America if you're working hard and trying hard all kinds
of opportunities will come, and it's very important that you chose the right ones.
In fact, most people that have been very successful will look back and tell you
that some of the best decisions they made were the jobs they didn't take. So it's
something to think about.
If you decide, and it's hard to do this in your 20s—I, as President Lindgren described,
was extremely lucky. When I started out the first job it turned out to be the business
I've been in ever since.
I've never been anything but a reporter.
But some of you won't be so fortunate. You will spend the time trying to get your
foot on the bottom rung of the right ladder. But once you do, what you want to think
about in terms of advancement and work is trying to learn from the job you have.
And if you still have things to learn from the job you have don't be in a great
hurry to move on to the next job. Because if you move around a lot it can look on
a resume like you're someone who can't hold a job.
Now, that's not as true today as it might once have been because the fluidity of
the job market is greater than it once had been. People move along more quickly.
The whole pace of life in America has changed from what it once was. But it's something
to keep in mind. Opportunity will knock many times in many different ways. Not only
So the question as you sit here today about to receive these degrees is what's it
worth to have a college degree. As I mentioned earlier, the habits installed and
the things you've learned will stay with you always. But where you went to college
will cease to matter.
But in terms of difficulties, this is where I say a special word, congratulations
to the parents. College is expensive. Parents sacrifice for this. And the question
arising is, is it worth it? Well, there's new data out on that. Last year college
graduates on average in America made 98 percent more money than non-graduates. Think
about that. Over the course of a career it has been calculated that a college graduate
will earn on average $500,000 more than a non-graduate. If you look at it that way
college is a bargain.
And another thing to think about as you depart here today: $500,000 is lot of money.
Hell, you're already rich.
Have a wonderful summer."