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Debra Hollingsworth

Thank you, Associate Dean Thiel for that kind introduction.

Chancellor George, Provost Cope, Curator Goode, Faculty, parents, friends and, most important of all, members of the graduating class of 2009…thank you for inviting me to join you today.

It is always exciting to connect with men and women of achievement…people who set a goal and work until they reach it. That is why we are gathered here…to recognize, reward and celebrate success.

And when that success is earned at such an esteemed university that is the largest in St. Louis - it's even more impressive. As the former chair of Chancellor George's council, I am proud to have worked to help communicate the many outstanding attributes of the University of Missouri - St. Louis. As graduates, I hope you'll do the same to help your alma mater, because YOU are one of the best ambassadors of the University of Missouri-St. LouisYour university produces outstanding graduates, but also - and perhaps more rare - is that University of Missouri St. Louis students also understand that a complete education is more than classroom grades. It's learning from your family, friends, employers and community. And it is connecting with the world in a special way.

At the University of Missouri - St. Louis, diverse, talented, traditional and nontraditional students alike are educated thanks to active engagement of students and faculty in every department. So thank you to all the faculty in the audience today for the valuable work you do to make an impact on students. And to the students - thank you for working hard and making it to graduation. Its students like you who inspire others to go to college, and more importantly graduate from college. Right now only about 27% of Americans have a college degree, and in our region 24%. So you're joining an elite group today. And I realize that you're leaving here and entering into a tough job market with a high unemployment rate. Do not let this discourage you. Your education and your diploma will give you an advantage and more opportunities in the future.

So today, I want to talk about those opportunities and your future. My goal is not to connect you with any grand challenges. I am not going to ask you to change the world; I'm going to ask you to do something quite simple: take your education and use it to make the world a better place.

Today, I want to encourage you to develop the kind of commitment that can be found among the best performers across virtually every field - a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work.
I'd like to share with you three things that will help you make an impact and live a productive life; I know they've helped me. My hope is that you'll be able to walk away from today, apply these lessons to your life and in turn make a difference in someone else's. I call these things the "three P's of success."

First are people. Everything in life revolves around people. In order to be productive and make a difference, you have to be able to interact and communicate effectively. Now, there are lots of ways to communicate these days. Between your home phone and cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and more, you have unlimited access to stay connected. And we should use those tools to stay connected to one another, but I also think we should not be consumed by these new technologies. Nothing will replace in-person communication - it is the most effective form. Look someone in the eye, shake hands, smile, talk and most importantly listen.
Because no matter what you do in life - whether that be a teacher, IT professional, research assistant or stay-at-home-parent - you will work with people and need to communicate. Beyond communicating effectively with people, learn to treat people fairly and with integrity. As educated adults, try to motivate, teach, develop, partner and continue to learn. Successful people never stop connecting with learning. There are opportunities to learn in everything we do. And I encourage you to pass on your learning's to others in your lives. In fact, perhaps the most important education you'll receive is the one you'll get by teaching others. By making these real connections with others, valuing your peers and communicating effectively, you will be able to make an impact on those around you.

The second "P" is purpose. Focus on your purpose in life - it will not only help you live productively but will also help you motivate, inspire and teach others. Understand your purpose and how it links to the objectives and goals of your family, work and community teams. Put yourself in the shoes of others to understand their needs in order to successfully instill a sense of purpose and link to your responsibilities. People who understand and believe in their purpose will focus on their goals and objectives.

Perhaps the most important of the P's is passion. Passion drives your overall motivation, enthusiasm and excitement. The most successful people create a vision and they rally others around it by inspiring them to drive to be the best at whatever they do. Learn your passion and the passion of the individuals in your life and find a way to feed that fire in order to get the most out of life. This means challenging oneself and creating a world class work environment.

To me, the most powerful way we all can use our diverse passions is by connecting with our communities…Look at your greatest talents, look at what fuels you, and figure out a way to share that with your community. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so we have to believe that our communities are only as healthy as our poorest neighborhoods. The emphasis on serving our communities is stronger today than ever before, so I encourage you to do all you can to connect your passions with your community and improve the places where you live and work.

Today proves that you are willing to connect with people, that you have a purpose - and that you are passionate about your future. If you put people first in every decision you make, instill a sense of purpose in yourself and work with passion in everything you do, you will -- make an impact.

Many of you may be familiar with Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I want to leave you with a quote from Albom that really struck a chord with me and speaks to what I've shared with you today. He said, "The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." I encourage you all to live by these words.

It's been an honor to celebrate education accomplishment with you today. Thank you, graduates, for allowing me to be part of this very special day. I congratulate you all and I wish everyone good health, much happiness, and great success in the years ahead.

Thank you!