Forgot your password?
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
  • default color
  • green color
  • red color


Sep 28th
Home Columns A Voice From America Advice to Graduating Students: “Never Choose Your Heroes Lightly”
Advice to Graduating Students: “Never Choose Your Heroes Lightly” PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 2
Columns - A Voice From America
Written by Ernie Delfin   
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 19:41


It is another June, the beginning of summer, and also the month of many commencement exercises in our high schools and universities.  I have attended many of them since my own graduation from Letran University in Manila more-than 30 years ago!


I have heard many commencement speeches (I have also delivered several such speeches in the past), and many of these speeches in my view do not leave much to remember after they were delivered. Most likely, many of us do not even remember the name of our commencement speakers and their “words of wisdom”  they tried hard to impart to their audience.


I often wonder what criteria school administrators use in choosing a speaker. Let me highlight a point: The prestigious University of Pennsylvania, one time invited then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as the person most qualified to give advice to its graduating class. The university even bestowed upon him an honorary doctor-of-laws degree!  Any politically or globally-oriented person who followed  his tenure at the UN, and its oil-for-food scandal at how this UN aid program turned into was described as “the biggest graft-generating machine ever and enriching some of America’s most forceful opponents at the United Nations.” At the helm of the U.N. (at that time) was Secretary General Annan, who, despite being cleared of a direct role of the scandal was harshly criticized by a U.N. report for misleading investigators and for not scrutinizing his son’s lucrative involvement in diverting oil-for-food dollars to the Swiss company for which he worked for. Question: What relevant advice can this bureaucrat credibly offer to the graduating class?


P oliticians are also invited to be the commencement speakers.  The majority of them, unfortunately,  are not worth the time (and honorarium fees?) listening to them as there are  no enduring challenges that really move the students’ imagination. 


Who then can be great individuals who can dispense some relevant and inspiring commencement exercises to any graduating class, be it a high school or college? A few years back, the Orange County Register editorial said: “that commencement speakers should be people of principle who understand how our present world really works, who are honest thinkers, preferably doers, who have insights into the basic debates of life and who can deliver such message reasonably well.” That editorial gave an example of several people, including an inventor, Burt Rutan, who has designed 38 new airplanes in his three decades of hands-on involvement in aviation.


Inventor Rutan has been featured by 60 Minutes and that interview  captivated millions of people. His SpaceShip One won the Ansari X-Prize by flying beyond the atmosphere and repeated the feat a week later. Two of his designs were on permanent display in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. A quote from the Register:  “What’s really fascinating about Burt Rutan is how creatively he thinks about the world beyond airplane-and-spaceship designs, about what it takes to create a society in which accomplishments like his are possible and help to inspire even more from others. And he has an irreverent sense of humor fed by a keen understanding of the importance of doing things you love and having fun doing them if you want to have a good life.”


I have been fortunate to have met and listened to a variety of great people who inspired many people like me to aspire higher, to hitch our wagons to the stars. I have met and listened to many-accomplished heroes, like an astronaut who was in the moon, Buzz Aldrin, in our financial-services convention in Florida about 10 years ago. I have also heard Bill Gates. Others I would love to meet, listen to and interview would be people like the founder of Google and the Dalai Lama of Tibet, as well as many great authors, pioneers  in business, religion and the CNN Heroes. 


In my opinion, a great commencement speaker should be an individual who had actually changed the world for the better. One such a person would be someone like former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy who has moved, inspired and challenged people us to dream, and to dream BIG! JFK challenged my generation to go to the moon, to join the Peace Corps, and stop asking what the country can do for us but instead ask what we can do for our country!


I challenge all graduates everywhere as they enter the real world to “NEVER CHOOSE YOUR HEROES  OR ROLE MODELS   LIGHTLY!” Your choice of heroes and role models have indelible marks in your lives. You become what you become largely because of the people and ideals you pattern your lives after. Be that SOMEBODY who made a difference to the world! # # #


E-mail the writer at: or



Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 May 2010 19:44

Add your comment

Your name:
Your email:
Comment (you may use HTML tags here):

Who's Online

We have 175 guests online


Please consider supporting the "ReVOTElution of Hope" for Sorsogon as the Pilot Province. Please see "ReVOTElution" Banner on this page for details.


Quote of the Day

"I don't know what's wrong with my television set. I was getting C-Span and the Home Shopping Network on the same station. I actually bought a congressman."--Bruce Baum