Scott H. Decker, Curators' Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Thank you Dean Burkholder. Members of the platform party, faculty,
parents, friends and supporters. And most of all graduates. Welcome
I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to talk for a few
minutes at your graduation. And I promise it will only be for a
This is the thirty second year that I have attended college graduations.
When I began to prepare for the opportunity to talk to you today,
I reflected back on some of the more notable graduation addresses
I had heard. At my own undergraduate ceremony in 1972 there were
two speakers. I can't remember either of their names or what
they said. I can't even remember the topics they spoke about.
So in a sense the bar for me as your speaker is set pretty low today.
I hope not to disappoint you.
Two graduate addresses from those thirty two years do stand out
though. In the first, the noted Harvard paleontologist Steven jay
Gould addressed an UMSL graduation in the early 1990's. His
talk was about global warming and the challenges faced by our planet
in light of warming and other evolutionary changes. He expressed
considerable amusement about groups who were working to "save
the planet". It was Gould's observation that the planet
would be fine regardless of what we did to it. It was the human
species whose future he was not so optimistic about.
The second commencement address that made a really big impression
on me was also in the early 1990's. A concert pianist from
New York was invited to play. And play and play. At the end of his
51 minutes at the keyboard, I know I was exhausted. I am sure he
was. He then took the podium and spoke for fifteen additional minutes.
Fortunately for all of us, I won't be playing today.
The most common element in a graduation address is providing advice
on how to be successful. I thought I would offer a few such gems.
I should note that my three college aged children routinely ignore
my advice, often finding that doing the opposite is a better course
of action for them. So in that spirit I offer the following suggestions
for charting a successful life course.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
But many hands make light work.
Look before you leap.
Yet she who hesitates is lost.
Great minds think alike.
Fools seldom differ.
To be is to do. (Shakespeare)
To do is to be (Nietzsche)
Birds of a feather flock together.
The early bird gets the worm.
The second mouse gets the cheese.
The clothes make the man.
The man makes the suit.
Or he is an empty suit.
Beware Greeks bearing gifts
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Actions speak louder than words.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Silence is golden.
The truth will set you free.
Ignorance is bliss.
Bide your time.
There is no time like the present.
Turn the other cheek.
The best defense is a good offense.
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the
people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people
all of the time.
A sucker is born every minute.
So where does this leave you? What advice are you to take from
pieces of conflicting advice as you march ahead with your new degree?
As college graduates you are members of a pretty exclusive group.
Less than one percent of the world's population can claim
to be a college graduate. Most of the other 99% envies you or aspires
to be like you.
Hopefully somewhere in the process of earning that degree, between
figuring out how to negotiate registration, return books to the
bookstore, find a professor to discuss a test or paper, and –
perhaps most importantly for your future – find a parking
place on campus, you will have learned to figure your future out
for yourself. Because that is the stage you have come to today
Again, my sincerest congratulations on your most important achievement.
Good luck, and remember, everything in moderation, including moderation.