Thousands of Oklahoma students are graduating in May; many this weekend. We asked some notable and interesting Oklahomans what they’d say to this year’s graduates, or what they wish they would have heard at their graduations.
We’ve compiled the advice into one extensive highlight reel of would-be graduation speeches.
First on our list are thoughts about college from a father-daughter team, Oklahoma country music superstar Toby Keith, who wanted his daughter to go to college, and his daughter, Krystal Keith, emerging music recording artist, who didn’t want to go.
After that, individuals at many different stages of life offer their wisdom to recent graduates, whether from high school or college:
Toby Keith, 51, Oklahoma country music superstar: ‘Be relentless’
“You just have to be really careful because some of these colleges are teaching such a political view in classes that have nothing to do with politics ... but I still think it’s important. You just have to research it. Find your way. Have a game plan and carry it out.
“And be relentless. Don’t let anybody outwork you. I told them the day I signed my record deal, ‘There may be people out-sing or out-write me or sell more tickets than me or more records than me, but they’ll never outwork me.’ And they never did. There was no one that put in the time that we did. ...
“So be productive, have a plan and carry it out. And give back.”
Krystal Keith, 27, emerging Oklahoma country music recording artist who just released her first EP, daughter of country superstar Toby Keith and University of Oklahoma graduate
“After high school, I was like ‘Nashville, here I come.’ And he (her country superstar dad, Toby Keith) was like, ‘No, I said college.’ I was like, ‘No you didn’t. You just said graduation,’ and he’s like ‘college graduation.’
“I kind of thought that I would work my way out of having to go to college. I got to do ‘Mockingbird’ (a hit duet with her dad), and I had the fever. So I kind of didn’t really take school seriously the first year or two, and he did not give in. I thought that he would eventually be like, ‘OK, college isn’t your thing; let’s just go into music.’ And he held his ground and just was really firm on it. Finally, I was just like, ‘You know what, he’s not giving in. I’ve gotta get this over with or I’ll never have a music career.’ And I literally did four years of school in 2½ years; I took every intercession, everything. ...
“He definitely knew what he was doing. I can’t tell you how immensely important the experience of college was on my life, just finding out who you are and just getting life experience and being around other people. The whole experience matures you, so to have the life skills and life knowledge I have now, it helps me with my writing. It helps me with every aspect of my career. You know, I took business classes, so that helps me on the business side of it. If I would have gone into this industry at 18, there’s no telling where I’d be right now. No telling. It really gives you the opportunity to become who you need to be to survive in this world.
“I fought it, and I’m actually thinking about getting my MBA now. So to go from somebody that really fought having to go to college at all to somebody that’s considering an MBA just because I want it is a pretty big turnaround I would say.”
Annina Collier, director of public relations, Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain: Resilience and relationships will define you more than successes
“It might not be the most uplifting or inspiring thing to say, but I think all young people need to hear this: You are going to fail. You can try your best to do everything ‘right,’ but you’ll never be able to anticipate the powerful forces in the universe that can lay waste to your best-laid plans.
“Some of it will be your fault; some of it won’t. You’ll be measured not by your successes and failures, but by your resilience and adaptability.
“And most importantly, you’ll be measured by your relationships. Call your mother. Hang out with your dad. If you are lucky enough to find a partner in life, feel grateful for that person every day. If you have children, spend as much time with them as you can, because one day you’ll be sitting in the bleachers at their graduation, hoping they’ll make time for you.”
Annina Collier graduated from Norman High School in 1996 and gave a rather nostalgic commencement speech at her graduation ceremony. She earned a bachelor’s degree in musical arts summa cum laude from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s in music from Ithaca College in New York. She has performed at New York City’s Merkin Concert Hall and the Juilliard School, and she appears on two CDs with Albany Records. Collier studied at the University of Limerick in Ireland and taught world music at the University of Oklahoma before becoming the director of public relations and outreach of the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain in 2004.
Jane Jayroe Gamble, writer, former Miss America and television news anchor: ‘Don’t delay joy.’
“Advice for the fabulous graduates of 2013: Accept the great gift of education but also gather the gifts of wisdom through the heart of experience. Remember to be nice: You never know who could play an important role in your future. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. Be grateful: in good times because they don’t last forever and in bad times because that’s what saves you.
“Bring your best: whether it’s a job, lifestyle habits or volunteering. Best effort sets you apart, builds self respect and offers meaningful rewards. Try to avoid debt and don’t marry it. The sooner you learn to manage money the more freedom and security you will enjoy.
“Don’t wait to be happy — until the right job, a perfect spouse, a higher wage, a great weight, a new car, that first home — don’t delay joy. God’s party is within you — today.”
John Griffin, attorney, Crowe & Dunlevy: You need more than an education to get a job
“I might offer something like this: ‘Congratulations, you now have a B.A., a B.S., an M.B.A., a P.H.D., a J.D., or an M.D.; what you really need now is a J.O.B.! To get a job in this economy you need more than a good education; you need a pleasing personality, a willingness to work hard, and a commitment to put your employer’s interests ahead of your own.
“‘To be successful today, you will have to give more than you receive. Do not be afraid to take a job for which you are overqualified. You will excel in that job, and it will lead to rapid advancement. Be patient, you have the education, you have the personality, you have the willingness to work, you have the commitment, you will succeed!’”
Rilla Askew, author of “The Mercy Seat” and “Kind of Kin”: Cherish where you came from
“I would encourage graduates to look deep, with clear eyes, at the place you come from — this land, this city, town, home, family — the forces that have already shaped you. At this exciting time, young people’s eyes are naturally — and with good reason — on the future, the limitless horizon. It seems the world starts ‘out there’ somewhere. But cherishing, without either sentiment or cynicism, the place you come from gives a kind of grounding that will serve you the rest of your life.”
Tripp Hall, vice president, Office of Development, University of Oklahoma: Bits of wisdom I have learned
“The following are lessons in life I have learned from others:
“‘Go forth and travel while you’re young. As you get older you may have the means, but not the time.’ (Henry Zarrow)
“‘If you have your health you are the wealthiest person alive.’ (Zarrow)
“And here are the lessons I learned on my own:
“Never let your ego get in the way of good judgment.
“It is always easy for me to be nice to nice people.
“Your conduct, behavior and actions are constantly being judged. Will others rule in your favor?
“These are just a few thoughts I have learned from others and by experience.”
Dr. Anu Bajaj, Oklahoma City plastic surgeon: What I would have wanted to hear from a commencement speaker
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