23 May 2010

Loyola University New Orleans 2010 Unified Commencement Keynote Speech

by Drew Brees

Thank you.

What an honor it is to be here.  Thank you to Father Wildes, distinguished faculty, esteemed trustees, and guests, and of course the 2010 graduating class here at  Loyola University.  I'll be honest; I was a little nervous about using "distinguished" and "esteemed" in the same sentence, because I thought it would come out "extinguished", and that is not the description I wanted to use.  Certainly you are all distinguished and esteemed, and it is an honor to be here.

You know, we have a lot in common.  Most of us came to New Orleans around the same time, the spring or summer of 2006, when that was not the most popular thing to do.  For me, I felt like coming to New Orleans was a calling; and for you, there must have been something drawing you here as well, a much stronger force that we can't necessarily describe other than we know that we belonged here.  And now, four years later, we can reflect back and say that we were a part of something special.  Certainly the work is not done yet, but we were a part of something special.  We've all watched the city not just come back, but come back stronger than ever.  And we have seen the people come back with more passion and determination than before.  And we've all been part of the SuperBowl championship.  (Definitely couldn't leave that one out.)  No matter where you're from or where you go from here, keep New Orleans close to your heart, and remember what you were a part of, and know that we are now all linked together forever.

As I look out at the young men and women graduates of Loyola University, class of 2010, I am so excited for you all.  What you are about to experience will be eye-opening, certainly rewarding, challenging at times.  You know. they say that experience is what you gain when you don't get what you want.  I can promise you that over the next few years you will gain experience; you will not always get what you want; you will face adversity.  But know that the sky is the limit as to what you all can accomplish.  There are some of you that will be doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers, artists, teachers, coaches, entrepreneurs, inventors, and maybe one of you will even own an NFL franchise someday.  I know another Loyola University member who does, that's Mr. Tom Benson.

But I can tell you this.  Your best years are yet to come.  But that does not mean it's going to be easy.  In fact I can guarantee you that you will face adversity along the way; and for most of you, it will be the toughest thing you've ever had to face in your life.  But I'll also tell you that every successful person you meet or talk to will say that it was because of that adversity that they were given the opportunity to reach new heights that they never thought possible.  For me, it was my shoulder injury back in 2005.  December 31st, 2005.  I was playing for the San Diego Chargers.  I dislocated my right shoulder going into a season, or an off-season in which I did not have a contract.  I did not have a job.  And when you have that kind of injury at the quarterback position, there's not that many people that come calling or knocking.  So at the time, I thought, this is probably the worst thing that could have ever happened to me.  But now, I look back at it four years later, and I say, it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, because it brought me to New Orleans.  There are many others that have faced that adversity and that have been in those similar circumstances or situations.  I'll give you a few examples.

Steve Jobs.  You might know him; CEO of Apple.  He was adopted as a young baby.  He went to college and dropped out after his first year.  He ended up then inventing, or starting, Apple along with a partner of his when he was 20 years old in his basement.  But then, by age 30, he was fired from his position as CEO when he had a falling out with his partner and with the Board at Apple.  For the next few years, there was some soul-searching for him, but in the end he ended up starting another company - you might have heard of it: Pixar Animation - which ended up getting bought out by Disney for almost $8 billion; and then another company that Apple ended up buying a few years later for 500 million.  Then he was right back where he was years before, 20 years before, as the CEO of Apple; and there he is today, doing some absolutely remarkable things.  But what he would say, and what I've heard him say, is that it was that adversity that he faced when he was kicked to the curb, so to speak, from the company that he founded where he really gained strength and yet more motivation to go forth and do remarkable things, things that he would not have been able to accomplish had he not gone through what he went through at age 30.

Another example, Ellen DeGeneres.  We all know Ellen; she grew up right down the road.  She used to go to Saints games at halftime at the old Tulane Stadium.  I've heard Ellen talk about the moment when she came out and announced that she was gay.  At that point she was having a pretty sex - successful career.  (A little slip.)  She was having a pretty successful career.  And then once she announced that, she - for three years she was out of work.  People would not give her the opportunities that they had before.  To her, that was the toughest thing she ever had to go through; but in the end, she was being true to herself.  She then received a small opportunity, to perhaps host her own TV show, her own talk show.  I think we all know how that's gone.  She is perhaps one of the most, if not the most, successful talk show host in history.  Certainly by being a New Orleanian we love her to death, we know what she's meant to this community; not only to our community, but to the country and to the world, she is a source of inspiration, and somebody who would sit here and tell you that had she not gone through what she went through during those three years, that she would not be where she is today.  So once again, the lesson being that adversity is an opportunity.  Adversity will make you stronger.  Adversity will mold you into the person that you're meant to be.

You all probably remember the onside kick in the SuperBowl, right?  How could we forget that?  I'll tell you the story behind that.  You know, we had two weeks to prepare for the SuperBowl.  I remember Sean Payton came in to the meeting at the beginning of that two-week preparation for the SuperBowl and said, "We have an onside kick that we're putting in the plan, and it's not a matter of if we are going to run it, it's when we are going to run it.  It's gonna happen."  And sure enough, it did.  And it worked.  ...Thank God.  So the lesson there: it's not a matter of if you will face adversity in your life, but when.  So when adversity knocks on your door, seize it as an opportunity, for that adversity is being put in your life for a reason.  It is God's way of providing you with the strength and the tools to face future challenges and to mold you into the person that He meant for you to be.  In the end, it is this adversity that will allow you to accomplish things in life that you originally thought were reserved only for your dreams.

My second piece of advice to you is this.  Find what you love to do, and then figure out a way to get paid for it.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?   Find what you love to do, and then figure out a way to get paid for it.  Some of you out there think you know exactly what you want to do, and then there's others that probably have no idea.  And I can tell you this: that's okay.  Because in a year from now, those that think they know exactly what they want to do, they might not have any idea at that point; and those that don't know what to do, you might have found your passion by then.  But my point is, be patient, and don't settle.  The only way to do great work is to love what you do; and, as with every matter of the heart, you will know when you find it.

My third piece of advice is to approach every opportunity with an attitude of gratitude and a mindset that, whatever you encounter, you will leave it better than when you arrive.  We have all been part of that here in New Orleans; but why stop here?  In everything you do in life, leave your mark.  Leave your mark.  Be a great steward of the community, and to society and to whatever business you are involved; and understand that part of your purpose in life is to leave whatever you touch better than when you found it.  So leave your mark, and leave it better than when you found it.

Number four.  Life goes fast.  I was sitting in your seats ten years ago.  Now, it's hard to think that that was ten years ago, because it feels like it was yesterday.  I guess my point there is, don't forget to enjoy the moment and reflect back on the journey from time to time.  For me, standing on that podium after we won the SuperBowl was a moment - one of the defining moments of my life.  What made it even more special was the fact that I was holding my son; and the reflection on everything that we had been through - as a city, as a team - to get to that point.  And as we watched the confetti coming down and "World Champions" come across the JumboTron and looking out at the Who Dat Nation just going crazy, beads flying everywhere, we recognized what a journey that had been and how special that was.  There's no city, no organization, no group of people that deserve it more.  I promise you that.

But the journey's not over.  We want another one.

Also: don't forget to enjoy the little things in life.  Sometimes you get going so fast.  I feel like the last three months have been like that for me.  But don't forget to enjoy the little things in life.  Watching a sunset with the one that you love, taking a walk in Audubon Park, sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch watching the streetcars go by, throwing the ball with your child out in the front yard: you work too hard not to enjoy those little things.  So enjoy the little things.

My last piece of advice is, don't forget why you were put on this Earth.  Mayor Landrieu mentioned it earlier.  We were all put on this Earth to serve others.  Sometimes, the more successful that you get, people tend to forget that.  It becomes more about how they can serve you as opposed to how you can serve others.  So don't forget, no matter how successful you become - which you all will - to serve others.  As you all sit here on Graduation Day, I believe everyone can agree that we have all been blessed with some great opportunities in our lives.  Be appreciative and respectful of those opportunities, and never take them for granted.  And with that mindset, just think about being able to give back what has been given to you.  Take the time to make a difference in the life of somebody less fortunate.  It's amazing that the more generous you are and the more you choose to serve others, the happier you will be.

And now, for the words you've been waiting for: In Closing - I'd like to leave you with a quote.  (Oh, we're going to finish strong.  Don't worry.  We don't know any other way, so here we go.)

In closing, I want to leave you with a quote.  I could have chosen many profound quotes from Presidents, CEOs, philosophers; but I am choosing one from my grandfather.  He's 85 years old; he still lives on a ranch, herding cows, in East Texas.  His name is Ray Akins.  And a quote I heard all the time from him when I was growing up was this: "According to my grandpaw, there are three types of people in this world.  There are those that make it happen.  There are those that watch it happen.  And then there are those that wake up one day and say, 'What the heck happened?'  So which one are you?" is what he would tell me.

So I leave you today by first saying, Congratulations to the 2010 graduating class of Loyola University.

And now: let's go make it happen.

(link to the live version)

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