Abbott to grads: 'Life is a destination' Dan Necklace, a member of Vermillion High School's Class of 2000, shows his elation after graduating May 28. He was among the 127 seniors who received their diplomas at Slagle Hall. by M. Jill Karolevitz The Vermillion High School Class of 2000 was able to chuckle through a lot of its commencement address, but the students also took home words of wisdom to remember as University of South Dakota President Jim Abbott offered them 10 �nuggets� of advice.
Seated among their friends and family May 28 in Slagle auditorium, the graduates heard first that there are three kinds of people: �those who learn by reading, the few who learn by observation and those who just have to urinate on the electric fence for themselves,� Abbott said. �Now, if you are one of the latter types, relax, most of us are. We just have to learn everything the hard way.�
Abbott added, however, that life will always have its electric fence poles.
�You may be the type who cannot resist them,� he said. �If so, keep trying to resist. If you can�t don�t worry. After all, good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of experience comes from bad judgement.�
The second nugget of advice � don�t squat with your spurs on � told students that there is a right place and a right time for everything ? �and both correct and incorrect behavior. Know the difference,� Abbott said.
The Class of 2000 also learned that individuality is a good thing � �always drink upstream from the herd,� Abbott said. �Figure out your strengths and capitalize on them. Likewise, analyze your weaknesses and improve upon them. Be a good follower where you are unable or don�t wish to lead, and lead, if you have the ability and the inclination.�
He added that every leader needs to keep track of his or her followers.
�Remember, if you�re riding ahead of the herd, take a little look back every now and then to make sure the herd�s still there,� Abbott said. �There is nothing wrong with following the beat of your own drummer. In fact, I encourage it. But be sure that you aren�t so far off the beaten path that you can�t find your way back.�
Abbott then shared a parable about a mountain lion who ate an entire bull, and after doing so,
he felt so good about it he roared and roared and kept roaring until a hunter came along and shot him.
�The moral of the story: when you are full of bull, keep your mouth shut,� Abbott said. �It�s easy in this life to get a little full of ourselves, to brag just a little too much, to be just a little more proud of our successes than we should be. Just remember the story of the bull. if you forget, you probably won�t be shot, but you may well be shot down.�
Quoting Will Rogers, Abbott reminded the VHS graduates to never kick a cow chip on a hot day, never slap a man who�s chewing tobacco, and letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back. He noted, too, that the students must also remember that their parents� thoughts and ideas should be respected.
�One thing I can guarantee you: some day, you�ll be talking with one of your parents and you will wonder how they got so smart in such a short period of time when they were so out of it just a few short years ago,� Abbott said.
His seventh nugget of advice is that �I�ve always done it that way� is not a good reason.
�I remember the story of a woman who always made her cakes in a certain way,� Abbott said. �She always mixed the ingredients in a bowl and then poured the cake mix into two equal sized pans for baking. One day her husband asked her why she didn�t just use one large pan. Flustered, she replied that her mother always did it that way and that there must be a good reason. Some time later, she asked her mother the same question her husband had asked. Her mother�s reply: ?I didn�t have a large pan. I had to do it that way!� �
Quoting inventor Thomas Alva Edison, Abbott said �Success is two percent inspiration and 98 percent perspiration. In other words, ideas aren�t usually enough. Work hard, stay committed.�
Abbott paraphrased some familiar words of wisdom for his ninth bit of advice.
�Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes,� he said. �That way, when you criticize them you are a mile away from them. And, of course, you have their shoes!
�Seriously, it is easy to find fault, to attribute evil or stupidity to those who do not agree with us,� he continued. �Remember, though, that sometimes others simply have a strongly held belief that just happens to be opposite ours. An honest difference of opinion, however misguided in our eyes, should always be given the respect it and its proponent deserves.�
Finally, Abbott told the graduating seniors that life is not a destination, it is a journey.
�We should not concentrate on going from point A to point B as quickly as possible,� he said. �We need to stop along the way; take a detour now and then. Life is like a fine wine. It should be savored, sipped slowly, not gulped. Take the time to consider the people and places in your lives. Appreciate them for what they are, learn from them, celebrate them. Do a good deed, no matter how small, every day. Work hard. Read. Learn. Do your best in all you do and above all, leave this world a better place than you found it.�