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Robert Frank

"Lessons Learned"

Thank you Dr. Schmitz for the warm introduction.  As you were going through my life I couldn’t help but think of Gus McCray‘s last words to Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove. “My God Woodrow, It’s been quite a party, ain’t it?”  And my party started right here, on this campus, in the Summer of 1969 when I began my college education.

I provided Dr. Schmitz some of my background information as this process was moving forward and as I was looking over the things I have accomplished in my life I had to ask myself, “How did Bob Frank accomplish all of this?  After all, I graduated in the bottom 10% of my class. There were about 465 students in the class that graduated from Ladue High School in 1965 and about 420 of them had higher GPAs than I did.  I never got a B in any academic subject from 7th grade through graduation.  Most of the time I got 2 Cs and 2 Ds and the highlight of my academic experience was my last semester when I got 3 Cs and only one D.  I enjoyed high school and had a lot of fun. In fact I had so much fun that at the end of my junior year my father had already grounded me for every weekend my senior year.  What changed in Bob Frank? What happened?

Well, about a year after I started school at UM-SL I was living in Columbia having transferred to Mizzou.  One day my roommate, Wally Simon, came home and said, “You need to transfer to the College of Education. I think this is a program you will really like and really relate to. And there is this neat grad student you can probably get as your advisor.”  So the next day I went over to the College of Education and met this grad student.  He was pretty convincing and education sounded like an interesting career.  So I tapped this grad student into being my advisor and that is how I met the current Dean, Charley Schmitz.  And that is where I found myself—in the College of Education.  I found a program that I truly loved.

I went through a program probably very similar to the programs that the current graduates had. I learned all about lesson plans, testing, teaching and use of multi-media but I also learned some other things that are the lessons that I believe really contributed to my success.  And it is those other things, those other lessons, that I want to talk about today.

For instance, I learned that when I am teaching a child I have, in my hands, the minds of today and soon will have the minds of tomorrow.  Those of you in elementary education will see your students more in each of their pre-secondary school years than will anyone else in the world—including their parents.  The contribution these children make to society truly rests with their teachers.  You are in the most important program offered by any college or university.  There is not one engineer, one biotechnician, one doctor, one lawyer, one welder, one cook or one carpenter who would have their job if they hadn’t learned reading, writing or arithmetic.  There would be no laws, no speed limits, no money, no groceries no TV, no radio and no movies.  Think about that.  No Jerry Springer, no Rush Limbaugh, no Abraham Lincoln, no Thomas Jefferson and no Dr. Martin Luther King.  How many of you are involved somehow in education either as a teacher, a faculty member, an administrator, counselor or any way at all involved in Education?  Raise your hands, please.  So the first thing I want  you with your hands raised to do is to straighten your back and hold your head up nice and high because you are the building blocks for our country and society.  Be proud.

  • I learned that positive messaging generates a positive stimulation that is almost impossible to suppress and we should use positive words like “yes” and “good” more often than words like “No” or “Don’t” or “can’t”.

  • I learned to encourage people to always try harder, to do the best they can and see failure as a stepping stone on the path to success.

  • I learned that once someone has given you B work you never accept B- work and your job now comes to motivate them to B+ work.

  • I learned to accept people for what and who they are. 

  • I learned to put myself in the shoes of others to see things as they see them and have compassion. I learned to feel their sorrow, pain, suffering and joy and to try to understand these feelings in them and then put my efforts to helping end their sorrow, pain or suffering or celebrate with them in their joy.
  • I learned that you cannot learn while talking—only while listening.  If I want to learn about you I need to close my mouth, open my ears and allow you to talk.

  • I learned that if I teach someone how to solve their problems by using their brain I give them a skill that will be valuable to them for the rest of their life

  • .I learned that loving is important. Learning is important.  But loving to learn is the most important.

  • I learned that the brain that is wasted could be the brain the finds the cure for cancer.

  • And last, I learned that if you really want to know what it is all about you do have to do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around.

I believe that part of my success is due to the fact that I try to put these lessons to use every day.  I use these lessons to help me build relationships and collaborate with others in order to complete whatever I am doing better, faster and less expensively than I or my parents ever imagined.   I use these lessons so I can become a global explorers and human probe that will reach out and touch others in ways that are being created new each day.

I believe that part of my success is because I try to work on perfecting my people skills so that my return on my people will be greater than my return on my monetary investment.  By enhancing our People Return you and I will be better able protect our jobs because people with good people skills cannot be outsourced, they cannot be automated and they cannot be digitized and, therefore, you will go from being expendable employee to being an essential employee. 

I believe my successes are partial due to the fact that at the end of each day I try to remember to think “Did I make someone else’s life better today?”  If I answer that with a “No” then I will know I will have to try harder tomorrow. And if I answer it with a “Yes” then I know I will sleep better tonight.

I believe that lifelong learning is essential for success.  Lifelong learners will never stop in their quest for knowledge, information and the truth. They will watch and listen to conflicting positions on a controversial topic and be glad that they live in a country that allows conflicting positions on a controversial topic to be publicly aired.  Lifelong Learners will listen to what others say and try to understand the world from their perspective.  Lifelong Learners will be compassionate.  Lifelong Learners will always think, “There must be a better way” and they will strive with others to find the best way in everything you do.  Lifelong Learners see today, your graduation, as the beginning of a knowledge quest and not the end. Lifelong Learners pass the love of learning on to the next generation.

I believe that part of my success is because I get involved with my cities, my universities, charities, schools and my government.  I show to children and adults through my actions that the American form of democracy is based upon citizen participation and the development of critical thinking skills.  I vote. I support candidates and causes that I believe in.  I will not stand on the outside and watch but will jump in. As Garth Brooks says in his song, Standing Outside the Fire, “Life isn’t tried it is merely survived if you’re  standing outside the fire.”

I believe that part of my success comes from my interest in helping children grow to become strong, capable and competent members of our society.  I believe we have to teach today’s children the skills, talents, morals, values and cultural history that will give them an appreciation for the past and an optimistic outlook on the future.  We need to teach them that not all four-letter words are bad and that 4-letter words like love, feel, talk, care, and help are strong and positive words and should always be used.  We need to teach all our pupils that pessimists find problems in opportunities whereas optimists find opportunities in problems.  We need to teach them that on a bad day they should be thankful for all the good things they have.

For the parents, friends, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers who are here to witness the graduation of someone who they care about—Thanks for supporting their education.  You also have taken a step toward making a better world for us all to live in.  The friend or relative who you helped get through college may teach the child to read who will discover the cure for cancer or AIDS or develop alternative fuels that will provide us with energy independence or provide us with soothing relief to our daily stresses through the music they make and share.  You have helped to make sure that a brain is not wasted and our society, our world, owes you a big Thank You.  Today, you too should straighten your backs, hold your heads up right and be proud of what you have done, too.

Well, my time has expired and it is time to move on.  In closing I would like to say just two more things. First, again I would like to thank Dr. Schmitz, a 35+ year friend of mine, and this campus of the University of Missouri for this opportunity to speak before those who will shape the children who will shape our future.  Second, I would like to ask each of you to tonight and every night left in your lives that before you go to bed you ask yourself, “Did I make some else’s day better today?’  If we could all just one night answer that with a Yes—Just one night, think of what a more wonderful world we would have tomorrow.

Thank you