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Transcript: Mitt Romney’s speech to Trine University

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

ANGOLA, Ind. (WOWO): Former Republican Presidential candidate and Governor Mitt Romney delivered the 131st commencement address at Trine Saturday morning.

“I’m happy to give any address that isn’t a concession speech,” said Romney.  More than 600 students graduated this year from Trine, while around 500 of those graduates were on hand for the ceremony.

The following is a transcript from the speech, provided from Trine University:

Thank you for this honor.

I have been looking forward to speaking with you here today. You might imagine that having run for president, I’d be tired of flying around the country giving speeches.

But I was delighted to be invited, first, because I enjoy speaking to young people at the start of their life’s journey; second, because we Republicans don’t get a lot of commencement invitations; and third, because I’m happy to give any address that isn’t a concession speech.

And speaking to you today reminds me of my own graduation. I was an English major. That meant that I liked reading and writing. It also meant that I had no idea what I would do for a living. The self-help guides I read said I was doomed: they claimed that success depended on having a clear career goal.

That isn’t how life has worked out for me. Almost nothing I’ve done in my career was planned in advance. I could hardly have predicted I would get into politics. When I stepped into the Republican Convention in Massachusetts, I turned to Ann and asked: “In your wildest dreams, did you see me running for Governor?” “Mitt,” she replied, “you weren’t in my wildest dreams.” Actually, she didn’t say that. That was a joke I bought for my campaign from a joke writer.

The most remarkable of my life’s journeys was the one I only recently completed: running for president. In case you haven’t heard, I lost. In 1984, after Walter Mondale got shellacked by Ronald Reagan, he was asked why he lost. He said this: “All my life I have wanted to run for president in the worst way…and that’s exactly what I did.”

Given that my career followed no logical path, I am not going to advise you on one for yourself. But I will do one better: I will advise you on a path for success.

I had a friend in college at BYU who wrote a book that’s done pretty well. He titled it “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It has sold over 15 million copies. With his 10-dollar royalty per book, that means he made about 150 million dollars. My advice is free. It may or may not be a bargain.

Borrowing from Mr. Covey, I will title my counsel “The 7 Habits of Highly Happy People.” I have drawn these seven habits from what I have learned over 50 some years, consulting to people in scores of companies, leading large and small enterprises, serving as a missionary and then as a pastor of church congregations, and yes, from serving and campaigning across my state and across the country.

Habit number one: Keep hold of your friends. The faculty may not like me saying this, but the most valuable thing you may get from your years at Trine may be the friends you made here. I say that in part because you will forget almost everything you were taught in class.

Some years ago, a comedian who called himself Father Guido Sarducci proposed a college of his own. He said that he had surveyed college graduates from five years past and had collected all that they remembered from their class work of five years ago. He reasoned that in his university, he would only teach students the things these former graduates actually remembered. Needless to say, it was not a four-year curriculum. In fact, he called his college the Five-Minute University.

So for his economics course, you needed to remember only three words: supply and demand. For his course in business, all you needed to remember was this: buy low, sell high. For Spanish class, he boiled it down to this: ¿Cómo está usted? followed by: muy bien. And by the way, his Five-Minute University cost only 20 dollars. A real parent pleaser.

Unlike a lot of the coursework that you’ll forget, you will remember the friends you made here, and they can enrich your life. My close college and graduate friends and I share milestones together, we celebrate accomplishments, and mourn losses. We’ve helped each other in our careers. Some of my liberal friends even contributed to my campaigns.

Of course, when you walk away from here today, if you also walk away from your friends, you would lose a great source of happiness. Make it a habit to stay connected, not just online, but also in person.

Second habit: Make a family. I don’t expect that everyone here believes as I do that the Bible is inspired by God. If not, then at least you will have to acknowledge that it represents a portion of the wisdom of the ages, written by extraordinary thinkers and philosophers. Either way, its counsel warrants serious attention.

In its opening pages, Adam gives this direction: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The “one flesh” part we don’t seem to have a problem with, but the part about leaving mom and dad and getting married trips some people up.

I’m surely not going to tell you when to tie the knot. You’ve got parents who will do that. But I will tell you that marriage has been the single-most rewarding part of my life, by far. Marriage involves passion, conflict, emotion, fear, hope, compromise, understanding–in short, it is living life to the fullest.
Of course, some of you may choose to be single all your lives, and others may never find a soul mate; I sure don’t suggest settling. But for those who are thinking about marriage someday and who find a person they love, my witness is that it makes all the difference in the world.

And then children. Here the Bible also has advice: “Children are an heritage of the Lord…”

“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…”

I’m not sure whether having five sons qualifies as a full quiver, but I can affirm that they brought immeasurable happiness, as promised by the Psalmist. And they expanded and enlarged our lives in ways we would not have expected.

Ann and I were once invited to speak to students at the Harvard Business School about our choice of careers, I as a management consultant and she as a full-time mom. Ann was reluctant, in part because two other couples would also be speaking on the same topic, and both of the other women had chosen to be Wall Street bankers.

In the class, the other couples went first, I followed, and Ann spoke last. She explained that while she expected to have a career outside the home in the future, she had chosen to be a full-time mom until her five kids were raised. She went on to explain that her job had required more of her than she had imagined: she was psychologist, tutor, counselor, scoutmaster, coach, nurse practitioner, nutritionist, budget director, and more. When she sat down, the class was silent for several seconds and then it rose in a standing ovation.

I have come to believe that the true currency of life is the friends you have and the people you love. The coin of the realm buys very little at the bank of happiness.

Habit three: Do your present job well. My Dad was a classic American success story. He was born in Mexico, grew up dirt poor, didn’t graduate from college, but he became CEO of an auto manufacturer, a three-term governor, and a member of the President’s Cabinet. I asked him what I had to do to succeed in my career and that is what he told me: “Do your present job well.” Don’t complain and gripe, don’t just try to get by; dig in, learn everything you can about the business and it’s industry, be worth more than what you’re getting paid.

Doing well at what you’re actually doing not only opens your path for promotion, it opens your eyes to opportunities. My friend Tom Stemberg worked in a grocery and drug store chain. While doing his job well, he noted the extraordinarily high margins they were charging for paper and pencils, and for pens and office supplies. He started a company to sell these things at reasonable prices. Today, we know his company as Staples.

Habit four: Don’t swallow a hook. I’ve reeled in a fair share of fish. They bite the hook because it’s disguised as something delicious. They can’t escape from it because of its sharp barb. There’s a lesson in that: There are things that look good at first but that impale you and prevent escape. And they can ruin your happiness. Drugs make you stupid. Porn deadens your passion for true intimacy and has killed more marriages of people I know than I can count. Stay away from hooks, and if you’ve already swallowed one, do whatever it takes to get free of it.

Habit five: Take responsibility. When I was in venture capital, I hired a consultant to help our firm do better. He asked us whether we had ever made a bad investment. Yes, we said, of course. A case in point was our investment in a roofing manufacturer. He asked why it failed. We explained that it was because the price of the raw materials went up unpredictably high. And then he said this: If you blame your failures on things you can’t control, if you don’t take responsibility for failures, you will have a lot more of them. Successful people take responsibility and that empowers them to correct their mistakes and to shape their future.

It think it’s natural to blame everybody and everything but ourselves. A struggling marriage is the spouse’s fault, a missed promotion is the boss’s fault, a bulging waistline is McDonald’s fault. Blaming others prevents you from taking control and changing the outcome. Taking responsibility puts you in charge, puts you in control. Take responsibility so that you can guide the course of your life.

Habit six: Live for something larger than yourself. For most of your life to date, you have lived largely for yourself. Education was an investment… in you. Parents sacrificed… for you. Commencement should shift the focus of your life to something larger than just you. Most people have a hard time making that transition.

Tom Monahan struggled to pay for college. Raised in a Catholic orphanage, he needed to make money for his tuition and for his living. To do so, he bought a pizza shop for 200 borrowed dollars near the University of Michigan.

The shop did well and he opened another. Over the years, he developed hundreds of shops. You know it as Domino’s. After college, Tom stayed pretty focused on himself. He bought the Detroit Tigers and won the World Series. He bought dozens of enormously expensive vintage automobiles. One, a Bugatti, cost 8.4 million dollars. He built a massive corporate headquarters to showcase his collections and to provide himself with an impressive suite of personal offices.

And then one day, in reading C.S. Lewis and the Bible, he realized something. He wasn’t really happy. His life was all about himself, about his money, his collections, his things. He sold the team, sold the cars, and moved out of his big office into a small nook his secretary had occupied.

When my firm bought Domino’s, I handed Tom a check for over 1 billion dollars. Tom turned around and gave almost every single dollar to Catholic charities and founded Ave Maria University.

I asked him a few weeks ago what was the most rewarding part of his life–winning the World Series, building Dominos, or driving his Bugatti. You can guess his answer: “It wasn’t the toys–I’ve had enough toys to know how important they aren’t. It was giving back, through the university.”

If you live your life exclusively for yourself, it will be shallow and disappointing. Live for something greater: for your family, your faith, your country, your university, or for a cause political, social, or religious. With a real purpose in life, life is a great deal more fulfilling and happy.

And finally, habit seven: Be careful what you wish for. A 60-year-old man and his wife of the same age were walking along a beach. They stumbled across the proverbial magic lamp. The genie asked the husband what he wished for. He answered, “A wife that’s 30 years younger than me.” Whereupon he turned 90.

I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with hoping that you will make lots of money, or rise to the top of a corporate pyramid, or start a blockbuster company, or have your research published and acclaimed. But what I do know is that if that’s all your life is about, you probably won’t find the success you seek. You won’t be happy.

I’ve already mentioned some of the reasons why. There’s another I’d like you to hear. If success in your mind is one of these things, you are more likely than not to fail. I know, that sounds harsh. But I’m just acknowledging the odds. You see, there is a great deal of serendipity in human affairs. Startups get crushed by unexpected competition, research hits a dead end, investments wither in a market crash, promotions lose their luster when your employer goes out of business, and yes, elections are lost for reasons you didn’t imagine. If you define success in these material, temporal terms, your success in great measure will depend upon serendipity.

Fortunately, the things I have spoken about in the first six habits don’t rely on serendipity and luck. They depend on you; they are largely in your control. Your marriage, your children, your friendships, your service of God, of your country, of your fellow women and men, in any one of these, you can achieve success with your own work and energy and determination. Choose these things to wish for, work for, live for, and you are virtually guaranteed success and fulfillment.

Friends, family, a purpose greater than yourself, and ambitions with meaning. Choose this course and your life can be fulfilling and happy. Choose this course and the fabric of our society is strengthened, which is desperately needed today.

We live in tumultuous times. Demagogues on the right and the left draw upon our darker angels, scapegoating immigrants and Muslims or bankers and business people. Profiteers tempt and endeavor to hook us with compulsive addictions. Entertainment media distracts us from the things that bring enduring achievements and happiness. Think carefully about the habits of your life. You deserve to be happy, and America deserves your wise choices.

God bless you, and God bless America.

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David Rechner May 8, 2016 at 2:11 am

Find it interesting I’m the only person to make a comment.

I won’t say much as perhaps no one is here to read… Mitt Romney gave a nice speech and commend him for his words of wisdom. Frankly, he should be the President of the United States and I wish for that to still happen as he is a leader like that of our fore father’s.

I used to teach the 7 habits of successful people, and 7 habits of happy people sounds fantastic! Having sat next to Steve Covey during basketball games and speaking very little to him about much, I did gather an appreciation for his desire to help and serve others. If I could add anything to Mitt Romney’s speech, it is to serve others daily to receive joy.

Thank you Mitt for this speech and May “We the people” do all we can to get Mitt Romney in our Oval office so that our country may be preserved.

John Goodson May 9, 2016 at 1:40 pm

I voted for you and will be writing your name in again this election regardless of who else runs or doesn’t run, regardless of party. You could do amazing things in Washington if elected. Thanks for being you Mitt.
John Goodson

E Douglass Brown August 3, 2016 at 12:38 am

America didn’t want the better America this man might have led us to become.


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