Let me put everybody at ease, I am not about to deliver a speech. That is my gift to you. I don’t have a prepared text in front of me so we don’t have to listen for those four magical words we long to hear from long-winded speakers, “And so in closing…”
You already have the formula for success. This moment in your life is something you have thought about and worked for. You have your own formula for success. Whatever you did to reach this point in your life, all you have to do is apply those same principles to whatever challenge is before you. Proximity is power. You have to put yourself in position for good things to happen to you. I am a prayerful person and at the beginning of every morning, I say the prayer of protection:
The light of God surrounds me, the love of God enfolds me, the power of God protects me and the presence of God watches over me. Wherever I am, God is.
I start my day with that. I am prayerful. I’m hopeful. But you have to put yourself in position for good things to happen to you. I learned that from playing sports. Have you heard, I’m a little bit of a basketball player? And in my day I learned that being 5’10, I have always enjoyed sports, always loved sports. 5’10 is not too tall by today’s standards, but I have been 5’10 since the eighth grade. I’d got out on the basketball court and my coach would say, “Get into the rebound position,” and I would say, “What are you talking about? I’m the tallest one out here. If I want the ball, I simply take the ball.”
So to get through high school I realized I’m not going to fulfill my first dream, which was to be a professional athlete. I’m not confessing here. That was my original dream. So I took up bowling. I wanted to be a professional bowler. Most people want a swimming pool in the backyard. I wanted a bowling alley in the basement. I just love bowling. Then it was tennis. After a junior tennis match, I would curtsey like I was in front of the royal box. I’d go to the market and get strawberries and cream and my mom would say, “What are you doing? You are not preparing for Wimbledon?”
And in basketball, because I was so tall, when I got to high school I realized I was not going to be a professional athlete. We all have to change our thinking at some point as to what we are going to be when we grow up. And so I said, “I’m going to be a sports journalist.” That was my dream now. And in high school I was still the tallest person on my basketball team so I had to play the post-position. But I knew to become a sports journalist, I needed a college education and for me I needed a scholarship to get that education. And I knew no one wanted a 5’10 post player. So on my own time in Pass Christian High School in Mississippi, in a small steamy little gym, on my own time, I worked on my outside shots. So I wouldn’t be able to play position, but I’d be able to get a scholarship. But I worked on that sweet 18-footer off glass not because I wanted to be freshman of year at Southeastern Louisiana University, please hold your applause. My motivation was to put myself in position for success. So I get the scholarship and go off to Southeastern and realize there are a lot of people who want to do what I want to do. And I realized that I must get practical experience. So I went to a local radio station in Hammond, Louisiana, and said, “I want to be a sports director so I need to get some practical experience to apply my learning from the classroom” and they say, “Fine, before your 8:00 a.m. class, you can have a couple of sports reports, do play by play for high school football, basketball to get that experience.’ I think this is great. Ask and thee shall receive. This is wonderful. They said but there is a tradeoff, you’re going to have to DJ on the weekends. “Oh did I tell you, we’re a country music radio station? I remember oh so well WFPR 14 Country Hometown Country Friends since 1937–we’re the best in country music. You haven’t lived until you’ve scratched some records in a 100-watt station on a Saturday night. Again like you, I was positioning myself for success. I was making the necessary sacrifices. Things I learned from playing athletics. Positioning and also sacrifice. So I’m at Southeastern doing well, working at the radio station. I graduated with honors.
I actually applied myself in the classrooms so I got my college degree and people weren’t exactly breaking down the doors to sign someone to do sports on television who looked like myself. I was receiving full-time positions in news and I received one part-time position in sports; $5.50 an hour/30 hours a week. That was my first job in television. I was receiving $15-18,000 to do news at a time when I wanted to be a sports journalist. So I turned down the full-time position in news to be the sports anchor because I saw the big picture as you did. You must think big, dream big, but focus on the small on the day-to-day things that are going to get you to that ultimate goal. I was still dreaming about making it to “Sports Center” one day. And four years after graduation, after working in two small markets in Mississippi, in 1987, I received my first offer from ESPN. I was talking with the guys and Chris Berman, guys I had watched in high school and I told them, “Thanks but no thanks because I wasn’t ready.” You have to know yourself. I wanted staying power. When I finally made it, I wanted to stay. And so I said, “no” and went to Atlanta and worked two years there. Fortunately in 1990, ESPN came calling again. And I went to work there. I did not know that oh so many years later that I would be working with two of the most preeminent journalists of our time, Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America.” Who knew that I would be there? You never know how your life is going to unfold. But I’ll tell you if you put yourself in position for those good things to happen to you, make the necessary sacrifices and never loose sight of the big picture, everything that you have hoped for will become a reality for you. And as I said you have that secret to success right now. So my fellow graduates of the Class of 2004 of Quinnipiac you being here signifies to me that you too have put yourself in position for good things to happen to you. Continue to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices and I ask you to never lose sight of the big picture. Continue to dream big, think big and focus on the small. You already made the right choice by coming to an institution like this that truly cares about you. That has encouraged you to be creative in your thinking and has a sense of community. And to have your family and friends here, this is a tremendous morning to share with your family and friends.
Enjoy the moment and I wish us all continued success.
This speech is c/o of John Morgan and the Public Relations Office at Quinnipiac.