U.S. Senator King to LR grads: ’10 things I wish someone had told me’
By Wayne E. Rivet
Sydney Hancock remembers the first time she met Angus King.
Her parents were hosting a reception at their Casco home and needed to erect a tent in the backyard. To gain the needed space, Sydney’s swing set had to be moved.
She wondered, “Who this King fella was.”
On Sunday, as Honor Essayist for the Lake Region Class of 2013, Sydney had the honor of introducing former Maine governor and current United States Senator Angus King as the guest speaker at her graduation ceremony.
Senator King kept the attention of graduates and those tightly squeezed into Nutting Gymnasium (school officials said graduation was moved indoors because when workers attempted to place staging and chairs on the field hockey and football fields, the metal legs sank into the ground, due to heavy rains over the past few days) by mixing words of wisdom with a dash of comedy.
Here’s Senator King’s address:
What I am going to share with you is a list of 10 things I wish someone had told me when I was 18.
1. Take more risks. You need to try to do things that you don’t think you can do. I am convinced that what holds us back more in life than anything else is this little man that sits on our shoulder and says, “You can’t do that.” You can do that. David Ortiz, one of the great hitters in the Major Leagues, makes an out two out of every three times he goes to bat. It is okay to make mistakes. There is a multi-million dollar industry in this country that puts erasers on pencils. See. It means it is okay to make mistakes…Wayne Gretzky, the great philosopher and hockey player, said you miss 100% of the shots you do not take.
Now, I am going to share with you the most important piece of advice that I ever received when I was about 21 or 22 years old from an old man from New Hampshire. Here’s what he said — it literally changed my life. It has guided my decision-making at a number of important points in my life. Here’s what he said, “When you get to be my age, you’re going to regret things about your life. Regret the things that you did, rather than the things you didn’t do.” You don’t want to look back and wish I would have tried…
King noted that point is what made him decide to run for the U.S. Senate. “I didn’t want to look back 10 or 15 years from now and think I could have done something important for the country but instead went RVing. When I put the question that way, it answered itself.”
Taking more risks doesn’t mean being stupid…Try, you can do it more than you believe you can.
2. Be honest even if it hurts…Everything you accumulate in life — house, car, motorcycle, even family, friends — everything can be taken away from you by somebody else, except one thing — your own good name. Your reputation. Only you can give that away…You’re building your personal reputation right now based on everything you do. Be honest. In the end, that’s all you really have.
3. Always round off the cents in your checkbook to the nearest dollar. If you write a check for $17.40, write it in for $17. Life is too short for four-digit subtraction. Somewhere in the audience, a parent is an accountant and he is saying, you can’t say that. I am a United States senator, and I can.
4. There is no such thing as a material, geographic cure. If you are not happy in Naples, Maine you are not going to be happy in New York, San Francisco or Paris…Happiness is something you carry around between your ears. It is something that you make yourself. There is no such thing as a geographic or material cure.
5. Treat your first job as if it is the most important job you will ever have. A lot of people say, I am going to be the groundskeeper at the golf course this summer and that’s not a big deal. I am going to be a lifeguard or a nanny. I’ll be good when I am the vice president of something. No! Be the best lifeguard they ever saw. Come early, stay late, under-promise, over-deliver, because you are building your reputation and you never know the person you work for this summer will provide the recommendation that will get you the job you really want a year from now. Be the best. Stand out.
King then told the story about a kid who worked on a political campaign in 1988 for Michael Dukakis. He was 18. He made copies. He was the first person in the office and last to leave. He received more responsibilities. He had a positive attitude. Dukakis lost the election. Four years later, Bill Clinton won the presidential election. He remembered the teen who had worked on the campaign, and invited him to join him in Washington, D.C. after he finished college. He was an assistant to an assistant in the Department of Transportation. He ended up being an assistant to an assistant in the White House. Within two years, he was the personal assistant to the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. All because he was a great Xeroxer.
(That “kid” is Senator King’s oldest son.)
“He outranks me,” King said.
6. Place a $20 bill somewhere so when emergency strikes, you will be ready.
7. Don’t type something into cyberspace that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read on the front page of the newspaper. Seriously, your generation, I hate to tell you, is stupid about what you put online. No pictures, no stupid stuff.
8. Attitude is really everything. Here’s a fun way to remember it: It is your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude. It’s all about having a positive attitude…You will enjoy your work more if you have a positive attitude. The best example of this is that I know is the two kids on Christmas morning. One gets a big pile of presents. He opens them all. He sits down and is kind of depressed and says, “Is this all?” The other one comes down and there is nothing in the living room but over in the corner is a little pile of horse manure. And, he is excited. He is fired up. He is happy. His mother asks why he is so happy? Because I know there is a pony in here somewhere. That’s all about attitude! If you have a positive attitude, everything else works.
Learn a good handshake. Ladies, this goes for you too. The day of the little, dead fish handshake is over. There’s a lot of social science research that tells us every interview is over within the first 15 seconds. We make up our minds very quickly. Part of it is the handshake. Give me ‘7.’ Five fingers, two eyes. Make eye contact. That’s how you communicate with people.
9. This is really a simple one: When in doubt, don’t get married. This is a lifetime commitment, take your time. And ladies, he is not a project. If you don’t like him the way he is, don’t say to your friend that he is a little rough around the edges and I’ll fix it. It doesn’t work that way, ask my first wife.
10. Value your friends and family, and never let them down. You are going to have tough times in your life. You are going to have things go wrong…The only thing you have is your friends and family…Be there for your friends because when the time comes for you to be on the receiving end, you want to have made that deposit in the bank of love. The Beatles said, ‘The love you get is the love you give.’ Value your friends and family, and never let them down.
Senator King apologized to graduates and families for having to leave immediately after his speech to catch a plane for Washington, D.C. and not be able to shake hands and congratulate everyone at the conclusion of the graduation ceremony.
His final thought, “Value family and friends, and never let them down. Godspeed to the Lake Region Class of 2013.”