Brian Jones at Strayer Graduation

In his keynote address to recent Strayer graduates, our University President, Brian W. Jones, laid out some fine words of wisdom. Graduating from college is a huge milestone, requiring dedication and perseverance, so with that being said:

1. Be Proud of Yourself

It took a lot of work to get to this point. You not only went back to school, you did it while perhaps working full-time, raising a family or even serving your country. You put a lot on your plate, but you managed to balance it all and make your degree possible. As Brian acknowledges, “This was never going to be an easy endeavor. For many of you, the road to this place was one of the toughest challenges you’ve ever taken on.”

Take a moment to soak in your achievement and celebrate. You have accomplished a life goal many others haven’t, and you deserve this moment in the sun. “I see people who have set a goal and taken the necessary steps to reach it,” Brian said, “People who might get knocked down from time to time, but who pick themselves up and get right back in the game; people who are unafraid of hard work and are emboldened by the opportunities that lie ahead.” Which brings us to the next nugget:

2. The Journey Is Just Beginning

Brian’s parents were only 19 years old when he was born. With his arrival, his father, like many of you, felt compelled to get a “real job” to support the family. He found one at a major insurance company, boxing up closed files. It wasn’t glamorous by any means, and his dad longed for a “sit-down job,” a desk job in which you need more than a high school diploma to get.

With help from his employer, Brian’s father did exactly what almost all recent Strayer graduates have done—he worked all day and spent his evenings attending classes and caring for his family. His work paid off.

Brian’s father soon got a promotion, followed by others. He saw the value of his Bachelor’s Degree and wanted to enhance it, so he went on to earn his MBA with night classes. With the MBA, doors continued to open wider as he gained more knowledge and experience. As Brian says, “I was proud to watch him rise to become Chairman and CEO of the largest home and automobile insurer in the state of California.”

So keep it in mind that you haven’t hit the end of the road. You’re at the beginning of an entirely new one, with better views waiting in the distance. Move forward, and see what else you can bring to fruition.

3. Continue the Cycle of Belief

Your education will not only change your life, it will change the lives of your children and others around you. You’ve shown the commitment to dig deep and work hard to achieve a dream. “It’s like tossing a pebble in a pond,” Brian explains. “The ripple of opportunity you create will touch many others.”

For proof, look no further than DC Prep, and urban charter school network in which Brian sits on the board. The majority of its elementary an middle school kids live below the poverty line, yet DC Prep students continually outperform peers at more affluent schools in terms of not only grades, but also standardized test scores and parental satisfaction.

“The reason for that, I believe,” says Brian, “is that DC Prep students are held to high expectations. They are told that they can all achieve high standards and are provided with the critical support to help get them there.”

As a graduate, you are someone to be looked up to, and you owe it to all those who gave you support to provide support for others. Go out into the workplace, community and neighborhood—inspire and lead. “There are no limits to the ripple effect your college education will have on generations to come in your family, your community, and your nation,” says Brian. “You are setting an example, an expectation, for our society, so go forward with the confidence that you can do great things.”

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