Kent State University, Ashtabula Commencement Speech

“WE CAN HELP EACH OTHER: TAPPING THE TALENTS OF KENT STATE ASHTABULA GRADUATES TO SPUR GREATER ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN ASHTABULA COUNTY AND NORTHEAST OHIO”

COMMENCEMENT SPEECH
KENT STATE UNIVERSITY, ASHTABULA
MAY 8, 2015
BY DON IANNONE
CEO, GROWTH PARTNERSHIP FOR ASHTABULA COUNTY

I AM HONORED TO GIVE THE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS AT THE SPRING 2015 GRADUATION CEREMONY AT KENT STATE UNIVERSITY, ASHTABULA. I WOULD LIKE TO THANK DEAN SUSAN STOCKER FOR INVITING ME TO DELIVER THIS IMPORTANT ADDRESS.
I WOULD LIKE TO RECOGNIZE DEAN STOCKER, THE ACADEMIC FACULTY, AND ADMINISTRATIVE LEADERSHIP OF KENT STATE, ASHTABULA.

IN MY ASSESSMENT, YOU HAVE EQUIPPED THIS CAMPUS WITH A FIRST RATE FACULTY, HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM, QUALITY EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES, VALUABLE INFORMATION AND LEARNING RESOURCES, AND AN INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY INFRASTRUCTURE TO FOSTER STUDENT LEARNING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
HAVING WORKED AT CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY FOR FIFTEEN YEARS, I CAN FIRST HAND APPRECIATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE FACE OF CONSIDERABLE CHALLENGES. THESE ARE NOT EASY TIMES TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL EDUCATIONAL ENTERPRISE. I WISH YOU THE VERY BEST IN THE FUTURE. YOU ARE A VITAL ELEMENT OF ASHTABULA COUNTY’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY.

I WOULD ASK THE AUDIENCE TO JOIN ME IN THANKING KENT STATE UNIVERSITY FOR ITS PRESENCE IN ASHTABULA COUNTY. (PAUSE)

FOUNDED IN 1958, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY AT ASHTABULA IS A VALUABLE RESOURCE, ADVANCING THE EDUCATIONAL LIVES AND CAREERS OF RESIDENTS OF ASHTABULA AND SURROUNDING COUNTIES. ALSO, KENT STATE, ASHTABULA IS A VALUABLE RESOURCE TO ASHTABULA COUNTY THROUGH ITS COMMUNITY AND PUBLIC SERVICE WORK, WHICH INCLUDES HOSTING, SPONSORING, AND SUPPORTING A WIDE RANGE OF COMMUNITY AND BUSINESS EVENTS AND PROGRAMS EACH YEAR.

MY ORGANIZATION, THE GROWTH PARTNERSHIP FOR ASHTABULA COUNTY AND ITS MEMBERS, HAVE BENEFITTED GREATLY FROM KENT STATE’S RESOURCES IN THE COUNTY. THE GROWTH PARTNERSHIP IS GRATEFUL KENT STATE IS HERE.

WHAT IS THE GROWTH PARTNERSHIP? IT IS A PRIVATE NONPROFIT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION, WHOSE MISSION IS TO WORK IN PARTNERSHIP WITH EDUCATION, GOVERNMENT, COMMUNITIES, AND OTHER GROUPS TO INCREASE JOBS AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY IN ASHTABULA COUNTY.

IN AN INCREASINGLY COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT, THE GROWTH PARTNERSHIP IS WORKING TO CREATE MORE JOBS AND BETTER JOBS FOR ALL OF YOU. LAST YEAR WE CONTRIBUTED TO THE CREATION OF OVER 160 NEW JOBS IN THE COUNTY AND HELPED RETAIN MANY EXISTING JOBS THROUGH OUR BUSINESS SERVICES.

2015 GRADUATES OF KENT STATE, ASHTABULA: YOU ARE THIS COUNTY’S FUTURE, AND WE NEED TO DO OUR BEST TO ENSURE THAT GREATER OPPORTUNITY EXISTS FOR YOU LOCALLY. THIS IS NOT AN EASY JOB GIVEN THE MANY CHOICES BUSINESSES HAVE IN WHERE TO LOCATE THEIR FACILITIES AND CREATE JOBS.

JUST AS EACH OF YOU MUST COMPETE TO FIND THE BEST JOB FOR YOURSELF, ASHTABULA COUNTY MUST COMPETE WITH OTHER PLACES IN NORTHEAST OHIO, AND AT TIMES GLOBALLY, TO KEEP AND GROW NEW JOBS. THE COMPETITION IS FIERCE.
EARLIER THIS WEEK I MET WITH PETER HUGGINS, THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF ITEN INDUSTRIES, A LOCAL DIVERSIFIED PLASTICS COMPANY. PETER SHARED A BOOK WITH ME, WHICH HE SAID I MUST READ. THE BOOK IS ENTITLED “THE COMING JOBS WAR” BY JIM CLIFTON. I OPENED THE BOOK AND READ IT COVER TO COVER IN THREE DAYS.

THE AUTHOR’S CENTRAL MESSAGE SPEAKS TO THE IMPORTANCE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AN EDUCATED AND TRAINED WORKFORCE, AND JOB CREATION, AND THE INTENSE RIVALRY AMONG PLACES FOR BOTH JOBS AND TALENTED HUMAN BEINGS.
HERE IS A TASTE OF WHAT THE BOOK IS ALL ABOUT: “LEADERS OF COUNTRIES AND CITIES, CLIFTON SAYS, SHOULD FOCUS ON CREATING GOOD JOBS BECAUSE AS JOBS GO, SO DOES THE FATE OF NATIONS. JOBS BRING PROSPERITY, PEACE, AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT – BUT LONG TERM UNEMPLOYMENT RUINS LIVES, CITIES, AND COUNTRIES.” SO VERY TRUE! THANK YOU PETER HUGGINS. THANK YOU JIM CLIFTON. (PAUSE)

I BELIEVE WE CAN HELP EACH OTHER. (PAUSE)

AS EDUCATED AND TRAINED PROFESSIONALS, YOUR AVAILABLE TALENTS CAN HELP ASHTABULA COUNTY COMPETE FOR NEW JOB OPPORTUNITIES. THIS IS TRUE AT IMPORTANT LOCAL EMPLOYERS SUCH AS THE ASHTABULA COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER, UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS, MOLDED FIBER GLASS COMPANIES (WHICH HAS 50 JOBS OPEN NOW. GO TALK TO ANDY JIHOLA, MFG’S CORPORATE VICE PRESIDENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES), CRISTAL USA, CHROMAFLO TECHNOLOGIES, GRAND RIVER RUBBER AND PLASTICS, ASHTABULA RUBBER, ITEN INDUSTRIES, AND MANY SMALLER ENTREPRENEURIAL COMPANIES, LIKE CONNEAUT LEATHER, THAT ARE GROWING LIKE CRAZY.

IN TODAY’S ECONOMY, JOBS FOLLOW PEOPLE WITH SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE. THIS UNDERSCORES THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS HERE AT KENT STATE UNIVERSITY. IT ALSO SAYS AS COLLEGE GRADUATES YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE ECONOMIC LIFE OF ASHTABULA COUNTY BY USING YOUR TALENTS HERE TO WORK, START YOUR OWN BUSINESSES, AND MAKE LOCAL COMMUNITIES STRONGER AND BETTER. THE MESSAGE IS: GET INVOLVED IN YOUR COMMUNITY.

REACHOUT TO LAURA JONES, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF LEADERSHIP ASHTABULA COUNTY, WHO IS ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BECOME LEADERS IN BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT, EDUCATION, AND THE PRIVATE NONPROFIT SECTOR. LEADERSHIP ASHTABULA COUNTY IS A LOGICAL NEXT STEP FOR ANY YOUNG PERSON GRADUATING FROM KSU, ASHTABULA.

ALSO TRACK DOWN TIM MCCARTHY, A CIVIC ENTREPRENEUR IN ASHTABULA, WHO RUNS THE BUSINESS OF GOOD FOUNDATION, WHICH HAS MADE SEED CAPITAL INVESTMENTS IN SEVERAL LOCAL BUSINESSES, INCLUDING THE NEW RESTAURANTS IN ASHTABULA’S HARBOR DISTRICT.

TAKE NOTE OF THE NAME OF TIM’S FOUNDATION – THE BUSINESS OF GOOD! BY THE WAY, READ TIM’S WONDERFUL NEW BOOK CALLED EMPTY ABUNDANCE, WHICH HE DESCRIBES “AS FINDING MEANING THROUGH MINDFUL GIVING.” AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT TIM AND HIS FOUNDATION DO.

I LOVE TIM’S ARTICLE ENTITLED “WHY DON’T WE TEACH THEM HOW NOT TO BE POOR?” I WOULD ECHO TIM’S QUESTION: “WHY DON’T WE?” AND THE ANSWER IS WE SHOULD TEACH EVERYONE HOW NOT TO BE POOR!

OUR NATION AND ASHTABULA COUNTY NEED GREATER BROAD-BASED PROSPERITY. YOUR TALENTS AND PASSION CAN HELP MAKE THIS POSSIBLE IN ASHTABULA COUNTY, OHIO.
WE HAVE ALLOWED OUR ECONOMY TO BE CONTROLLED BY A SMALL FRACTION OF THE POPULATION, WHICH HAS ALLOWED THE RICH TO GROW RICHER, AND THE MIDDLE CLASS AND POOR TO GROW POORER. WE HAVE FAVORED MAKING HIGH INVESTMENT RETURNS ON WALL STREET OVER MAKING PRODUCTIVE INVESTMENTS IN INNOVATION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, AND INDUSTRIES THAT MATTER, SUCH AS MANUFACTURING, HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION, AGRICULTURE, AND TECHNOLOGY.

IN LINE WITH TIM MCCARTHY’S WORK, THE GROWTH PARTNERSHIP HAS PICKED UP ON A PROGRAM THAT DOES JUST WHAT TIM IS SAYING. THAT IS OUR NEW FINANCIAL FITNESS PROGRAM, WHICH IS THE BRAINCHILD OF JAMES MAYER FROM WELLS FARGO INVESTORS HERE IN ASHTABULA.

FINANCIAL FITNESS IS A DAY-LONG EDUCATION PROGRAM THAT HELPS EMPLOYEES OF LOCAL COMPANIES AND LOCAL RESIDENTS TO LEARN THE BASICS OF PERSONAL FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AND INVESTMENT, WHICH IS CRITICAL IF ANYONE IS GOING TO CREATE WEALTH IN LIFE.

TIM MCCARTHY AND HIS AMAZING WORK REMIND ME OF A GREAT BOOK BY KENT KEITH, WHO IS KNOWN NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY AS THE AUTHOR OF THE PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS, WHICH HE WROTE AND PUBLISHED IN 1968 IN A BOOKLET FOR STUDENT LEADERS ENTITLED, THE SILENT REVOLUTION: DYNAMIC LEADERSHIP IN THE STUDENT COUNCIL.

I WILL SHARE A FEW MOVING PARAGRAPHS FROM PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS BECAUSE THEY ARE SO POWERFUL AND JUST WHAT WE NEED TO HEAR IN TODAY’S WORLD:

• PEOPLE ARE ILLOGICAL, UNREASONABLE, AND SELF-CENTERED.
• LOVE THEM ANYWAY.

• IF YOU DO GOOD, PEOPLE WILL ACCUSE YOU OF SELFISH ULTERIOR MOTIVES.
• DO GOOD ANYWAY.

• IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL, YOU WILL WIN FALSE FRIENDS AND TRUE ENEMIES.
• SUCCEED ANYWAY.

• THE GOOD YOU DO TODAY WILL BE FORGOTTEN TOMORROW.
• DO GOOD ANYWAY.

• HONESTY AND FRANKNESS MAKE YOU VULNERABLE.
• BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY.

• THE BIGGEST MEN AND WOMEN WITH THE BIGGEST IDEAS CAN BE SHOT DOWN BY THE SMALLEST MEN AND WOMEN WITH THE SMALLEST MINDS.
• THINK BIG ANYWAY.

• PEOPLE FAVOR UNDERDOGS BUT FOLLOW ONLY TOP DOGS.
• FIGHT FOR A FEW UNDERDOGS ANYWAY.

• WHAT YOU SPEND YEARS BUILDING MAY BE DESTROYED OVERNIGHT.
• BUILD ANYWAY.

• PEOPLE REALLY NEED HELP BUT MAY ATTACK YOU IF YOU DO HELP THEM.
• HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY.

• GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU HAVE AND YOU’LL GET KICKED IN THE TEETH.
• GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU HAVE ANYWAY.

THESE WORDS SAY IT ALL! THEY ARE THE HEART OF THE MESSAGE I HAVE TO SHARE WITH YOU THIS EVENING.

YOUR GRADUATING CLASS OF 144 AMAZING HUMAN BEINGS JOINS THE 4,000 EARLIER STUDENTS RECEIVING THEIR DEGREES FROM THIS CAMPUS IN THE PAST TEN YEARS ALONE. TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR EDUACTIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT AT KENT STATE UNIVERSITY, ASHTABULA.

SO HOW IMPORTANT IS THE DEGREE YOU JUST EARNED? AFTER WORKING IN THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FIELD FOR 35 YEARS, I CAN TELL YOU THAT OF ALL THE FACTORS INFLUENCING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ECONOMIC GROWTH, EDUCATION, IN ITS VARIOUS FORMS, IS “THE” BIGGEST FACTOR DRIVING THE ECONOMY, JOBS, AND WEALTH CREATION IN THE LONG RUN. IT’S ALL ABOUT HUMAN CAPITAL. EDUCATED PEOPLE WITH DEMONSTRABLE WORKPLACE SKILLS ARE IN HIGH DEMAND. IN ADDITION, THESE PEOPLE EARN MORE OVER THE COURSE OF THEIR CAREER THAN THOSE WITH LESS EDUCATION AND FEWER SKILLS. THIS UNDERSCORES THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DEGREE EACH OF YOU HAS JUST EARNED.

I WOULD LIKE TO PERSONALLY CONGRATULATE EACH OF YOU FOR EARNING YOUR VALUABLE DEGREE HERE AT KENT STATE UNIVERSITY, ASHTABULA. YOU MADE A WISE CHOICE IN EXPANDING YOUR EDUCATIONAL HORIZONS HERE. IT’S A QUALITY UNIVERSITY WITH VERY GOOD NAME RECOGNITION. IT’S ACCESSIBLE. AND COMPARED TO MANY OTHER COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, IT’S AFFORDABLE.

AS THE FIRST MEMBER OF MY FAMILY TO GRADUATE COLLEGE, I KNOW THE CHALLENGES INVOLVED IN COMPLETING A COLLEGE DEGREE. BY WAY OF BACKGROUND, MY FATHER WAS AN INDUSTRIAL MAINTENANCE MECHANIC, WHO LOST HIS GOOD-PAYING JOB DUE TO A PLANT CLOSING IN MY JUNIOR YEAR IN HIGH SCHOOL. DAD TOOK ALL SORTS OF ODD JOBS TO MAKE ENDS MEET UNTIL TWO YEARS LATER HE FOUND ANOTHER JOB IN HIS FIELD.

I WORKED PART-TIME AT A LOCAL GROCERY STORE DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR AND BALED HAY ON A DAIRY FARM DURING THE SUMMER TO HELP MY FAMILY DURING THAT PERIOD. THOSE EXPERIENCES TAUGHT ME ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD WORK ETHIC. THEY ALSO TAUGHT ME THAT TO SURVIVE YOU HAVE TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES. I LEARNED THE MEANING OF THE WORD “DETERMINATION” FROM THOSE EARLY WORK EXPERIENCES. I WOULDN’T TRADE THEM FOR ANYTHING.

NO DOUBT THERE WERE TIMES YOU WORRIED YOU WOULD NEVER FINISH YOUR DEGREE. BUT YOU DID! SO PLEASE GIVE YOURSELF A HEALTHY ROUND OF APPLAUSE AT THIS TIME. (PAUSE)

WILL YOUR DEGREE MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR LIFE? IF YOU USE YOUR NEW LEARNING IN THE RIGHT WAY, YOUR DEGREE WILL SERVE YOU WELL IN SPARKING YOUR PERSONAL GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT AND PREPARING YOU FOR SUCCESSFUL CAREERS IN THE EVER-CHANGING WORK WORLD, WHETHER YOUR CAREER PATH IS NURSING, BUSINESS MANAGEMENT, ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY, DAIRY FARMING, GRAPE GROWING AND WINE MAKING, TEACHING, MANUFACTURING, RESEARCH AND DESIGN, ART, RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS, OR PUBLIC SERVICE.

IN YOUR EAGERNESS TO ABSORP THE KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS IMPARTED TO YOU BY YOUR PROFESSORS, YOU MAY HAVE OVERLOOKED HOW YOUR DEGREE AND YOUR LEARNING PROCESS HELPED TO GIVE SHAPE TO YOUR PERSONAL WORLDVIEW, VALUES, ASPIRATIONS, RELATIONSHIPS, AND OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. TAKE SOME TIME IN THE FUTURE TO EXAMINE HOW YOUR EDUCATION SHAPED YOU AS A THINKING-FEELING-DOING HUMAN BEING.

EACH OF YOU IS AN INTEGRATED HUMAN BEING WITH A MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT, WHICH MUST LEARN TO WORK TOGETHER IN HARMONY AND CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR HUMAN WHOLENESS. A GOOD EDUCATION SPARKS OUR CURIOSITY ABOUT THE WORLD, GIVES US THE COURAGE TO ASK HARD QUESTIONS, AND GIVES US THE DISCIPLINE TO FIND MEANINGFUL ANSWERS TO THOSE QUESTIONS. THAT IS WHAT AN EDUCATION IS SUPPOSED TO DO FOR US.

IN CLOSING, I WOULD LIKE TO OFFER A FEW BITS OF ADVICE THAT HAVE HELPED ME ENORMOUSLY IN MY LIFE.

1. STOP EXPECTING LIFE TO BE FAIR. ALL OF US HAVE EXPERIENCED UNFAIRNESS IN OUR LIVES. MOVE ON. DON’T LET ANGER AND RESENTMENT GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR SUCCESS.

2. THINGS ARE NEVER EASY OR SIMPLE. RISE TO THE CHALLENGES LIFE SERVES UP TO YOU. SEE THESE CHALLENGES AS OPPORTUNITIES TO BECOME BETTER. ADVERSITY HELPS US GROW STRONGER.

3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. EVERYONE FAILS AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES. AND ALLOW OTHER PEOPLE TO MAKE MISTAKES. THIS HELPS GROW OUR COMPASSION AND EMPATHY.

4. DON’T FORCE DECISIONS YOU ARE NOT READY TO MAKE. IF YOU GET STUCK, GO BACK TO THE AGE-OLD QUESTION: WHO AM I, AND WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO ME? IT’S AMAZING HOW WE MAKE BETTER DECISIONS WHEN WE GO BACK TO THE “WHO AM I” QUESTION.

5. FINALLY, DON’T CRITICIZE WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND OR AGREE WITH. JUDGMENT, LIKE ANGER, IS A HOT COAL THAT BURNS US WHEN WE THROW IT AT ANOTHER. ACCEPT DIFFERENT PEOPLE SEE THE WORLD DIFFERENT BECAUSE THEY ARE DIFFERENT AND NOT NECESSARILY LIKE YOU.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY “I LOVE YOU.” PEOPLE HAVE SAID THIS FOR YEARS AND YEARS, AND IT IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE: WHEN OUR FINAL TIME COMES IN LIFE, THERE IS ONLY ONE THING THAT REALLY MATTERS, AND THAT IS HOW MANY PEOPLE WE HAVE LOVED AND HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE LOVED US.

GOD BLESS AND I WISH YOU ALL AMAZING, MAGICAL, AND PRODUCTIVE LIVES.

THANK YOU.

2 thoughts on “Kent State University, Ashtabula Commencement Speech

  1. I enjoyed where you were taking the connection of their future and ours then was stunned by your kind words about me. Not my preference but thank you, I’m honored by the thoughts.

    Tomorrow promises to be another step for NEO Fund. I’ll get a report on our work to support James and your team but also (hopefully) some good news on three more new businesses coming soon, a valet service to aid in overcoming parking issues (think Murray Hill), our first house rehab (3rd and Franklin) to be set up as rent-to-own for Bridge Street workers (think: non-gentrified revitalization) and the addition of IDAs to your/our financial fitness efforts.

    Keep the faith, baby.

    Tim McCarthy, Chief Mission Officer
    The Business of Good Foundation
    http://www.thebusinessofgood.org
    440-343-3350

    Please check out my new book at http://www.emptyabundance.org

    Like

  2. Don,
    I was so sorry to miss your apeech, and that of the student speaker as well. Circumstance changed our plans for the evening, but what a great start to my day, reading this! Thank you for the kind mention. Your sincerity and encouragement are inspiring! Thank you for sharing!
    Laura E Jones

    Like

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