Gilbertson to grads: Never stop learning


By David Lias

South Dakota Chief Justice David Gilbertson told graduates of the University of South Dakota Saturday that what they've learned during their time at the university is no doubt important, exceeded only by "how" they've learned.

"The world's knowledge is increasing every 10 years, and in some areas, every four years. Coming out of this institution knowing how to think and how to reason may be your greatest asset as you head out into your life," he said, "because your education is going to continue, whether you go on to further your formal education or whether you do it in a self-taught manner. The days when you can leave a university with a degree knowing you are set for life are gone with the wind."

Gilbertson was keynote speaker at USD's 37th winter commencement exercises at held Saturday, Dec. 15 at the DakotaDome. He is a native of northeast South Dakota and a 1975 graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law.

Putting a somewhat contemporary twist on the standard graduation speech format, the chief justice offered to the university graduates what he describes as "the top 10 things I think you should know:"

10: Do not be afraid of failure. Learn from your past experiences and your past mistakes, and the experiences of others. Those who ignore the past generally wind up repeating it. Never give up.

"Al Neuharth didn't succeed at his first publication attempt. Joe Robbie ran for governor of the state of South Dakota and got clobbered," Gilbertson said. "But Joe Robbie didn't give up; he went into business and ultimately became the owner of the Miami Dolphins, which still boasts the only undefeated season in the history of the National Football League."

The two men's eventual success has had a direct benefit on the University of South Dakota, he added, noting that the campus is home to the Al Neuharth Media Center. The DakotaDome, where USD's commencement exercises were held Saturday, became a reality over three decades ago thanks to the hard work and leadership of Robbie.

9. There is no such thing as a self-made person. "You got here through the help of a lot of parents, spouses, teachers, preachers, friends and Scout leaders," he said.

8.The harder you work towards a goal, amazingly, the luckier you get. Gilbertson noted that he is struck by the accomplishments of some of USD's best-known graduates, ranging from Neuharth and Robbie, to Ernest Lawrence, Tom Brokaw, and Joe Foss. "Every one of these individuals gives credit to USD as one of the primary foundations for their success," he said.

7. Always treat others the way you want to be treated, or suffer the consequences.

6. Life is not always fair. "In fact, if I can give you a guarantee today, it will be that life is not fair," Gilbertson said.

5. Learn to appreciate and care for the finest things in life, which are often free. "A friend of mine is fond of saving, as we both look at a sunset going down over a lake we both love, 'God's not making any more shoreline these days.' What we have, we have to protect, and we have to take care of it," he said.

4. As Dorothy told Toto in the Wizard of Oz, "Toto, there's no place like home." Gilbertson said USD can be justly proud of it 150 years of training leaders for the state, nation and world. "Graduates, I would ask you to consider staying in South Dakota. I did, and I've never regretted it," he said.

3. Strive to achieve a balance in your life. "While work is important, take time to smell the roses and enjoy life. Family should come first. No one, on his or her deathbed, was ever heard to say they wished they had spent more time at the office," Gilbertson said.

2. Learn the skill of listening. Listen instead of talk. "I don't know of anyone who ever got into trouble by listening," he said, "but I know a lot of people who got into trouble by not listening or by talking."

1. "When I was in high school, and had assured myself that I had learned everything I needed to know for life to be a howling success, I came out the door one day, and here was my mother on her hands and knees, planting flowers," Gilbertson said. "I looked at her said, 'Why are you doing this? This is a parsonage; we don't own it; we will never own it. Why don't you go inside where it's cool?'

Gilbertson said her mother replied, "I've never owned a home, and I may never own a home, but every place I've lived, I've always tried to leave it a little nicer than I found it. Graduates, may we take a clue from this. Wherever you wind up, may you leave it a little nicer than you found it."

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