FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG DELIVERS COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS AT TUFTS UNIVERSITY
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's remarks as prepared. Please check against delivery.
"Graduates, faculty, family, friends - Jumbos all of you: my official role here today is to be the first, and probably the only one, to say: 'Hurrah! Hurrah! For the Dear old Brown and Blue!' Thank you for those kind words, President Bacow. And thank you for greeting me so warmly. I understand that, typically, the only way to speak to President Bacow is to go jogging with him early in the morning.
"The President and I actually have a few things in common. We were both Eagle Scouts, we are both ruggedly handsome and we were both students of distinction. While President Bacow was at the top of his class, I was the kind of student who made the top half of the class possible.
"I also want to thank the Board of Trustees - including New York City's own Comptroller Bill Thompson. Bill, you should know, has been Comptroller of the City of New York for the same length of time I have been Mayor, and I think he will go down in history as maybe the best Comptroller the City has ever had. He is dedicated, he works hard and I am thrilled to be able to serve with him. When he called to invite me to come today he didn't say 'will you?' He said, 'you are coming,' and I always try to do what our Comptroller tells me to.
"And also Jonathan Tisch. Jonathan Tisch has been a friend of mine for many years. If you called central casting and said, 'send me a great businessman philanthropist' Jonathan Tisch would show up. He and his family are legends in New York City in terms of not just business acumen but their dedication to public service and to helping myriad institutions, and here on the Tufts campus if you don't know the name Tisch, you really don't know what is going on. Thank you both.
"Thank you for the honorary doctorate. My mother always wanted me to become a doctor. And best of all - she's here today to celebrate the occasion! You'd love my mother. She keeps herself very busy. She still lives in the house I grew up in Medford. And she dislikes the Yankees almost as much as most of you.
"Her reasons are different than yours, though. She's never forgiven them for stealing Babe Ruth away - when she was 10 years old! I had thought my mother was here this morning to cheer me on - but apparently she came for another purpose: to ask the residents of Latin Way to kindly keep the noise down! Anything you can do, I'd appreciate it.
"So you see, I had to be here! But before I impart some indispensable words of wisdom to you graduates, I want to say a little something about another important group here today. I'm talking about your parents and relatives - who are sitting out there this morning, beaming proudly, and not even thinking about what it cost to get to this day.
"Or what happens if you can't get a job and have to move back home. And some may even have forgotten that you took part in something here called the 'Naked Quad Run.' So let's give them a big hand. They deserve it!
"In organizing my remarks for today, I was inspired by a legendary text that has changed the lives of millions. No, I'm not talking about my own autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg - a magnificently written, DaVinci Code-like page-turner, currently ranked number 512,340 on the Amazon.com list, I'm talking about Robert Fulghum's classic self-help book: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
"Has anyone here read it? It was written about the time most of you graduates were born - and its thesis is that people master the basic principles for living a good life by the time they leave kindergarten. Well, I don't think it happens that fast. And from what I know about Tufts - I think you got many of your most essential lessons right here.
"So I've decided to write my own book: All You Really Need to Know You Learned By Commencement. Mine's going to be much shorter. Fulghum's book had 50 principles. I've trimmed it down to five. One thing you learn by commencement is to be more efficient! You don't have to take notes - there isn't going to be a test.
"But you've got to listen - because right now, I'm the only thing standing between you and getting your degree. Principle Number One in my new book is: 'You Gotta Take Risks.' You've certainly learned that from your time here. Whether it was asking someone out on a date in the North End, enrolling in a tough course like 'Intro to I.R.' or calling your folks to ask them to send you more money, you took a lot of risks to reach this day - and you'll need to keep doing that for the rest of your life.
"It's a competitive world out there. Everyone thinks they have the next great idea - but you'll find that the ones who actually succeed are those who put their ideas into action. Let me tell you how that's played out in my life: my first job out of school was on Wall Street and I stayed there for 15 years. It was a terrific ride: Fun times, and lots of praise from my bosses.
"They loved me - right up until the day they fired me! But I remained optimistic - because happiness for me has always been the thrill of beating the long odds. So the next day, I started a new company that would make financial information available to personal computers.
"We began with 4 employees a one-room office one coffeepot and zero customers. It all began with taking a risk - a risk that my friends and family subtly, but persistently - and with only good intentions - tried to talk me out of. But today, that business is pretty successful, I'm happy to say and my daughters are particularly happy to say.
"The second lesson: 'You Can't Do It Alone.' This is something else you've learned from your time here. After all, teamwork is a major part of any group project - whether you are singing harmony with The Bubs or painting and guarding the cannon. Every Little League coach, Sunday school teacher, and Scout leader has told you by now that teamwork counts. But here's a tip: This doesn't change.
"It's a complex world and no single person has all the skills to solve all the problems. Working collaboratively and cooperatively is the difference between mediocrity by yourself or success as a team. You must share the pain and the responsibility and then you'll also share in the rewards. In New York, I've tried to encourage teamwork at City Hall by literally tearing down the walls that keep us from interacting with each other.
"My senior staff now all works in one big room, called 'The Bullpen.' Everyone sits in a cubicle with no walls - including me. It creates a lot of energy… it really brings people together - and it allows me to see whose lunch looks better than mine.
"The third principle in All You Really Need to Know You Learned by Commencement is 'Give It To Them Straight.' You've probably heard some professors tell you over and over again during your time here - 'stick to the facts' - and they're right: there's no better way to make your point and win the argument.
"And even those who disagree with your conclusion will respect you for being honest and having the guts to tell it like you see it. We've pursued a number of controversial things in New York - but by sticking to the facts, we've won a lot of people over. Take our initiative to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, for instance. You can probably imagine that at the start, I wasn't the most popular person in certain parts of the city. I was almost as unpopular as the people who planned the Big Dig.
"But the facts are the facts. The science is real. Second hand smoke kills. And that's what drove our message. Now nothing gives me more pride than when waitresses come up to me in a restaurant, kiss me, and tell me they were originally against the ban but now give me credit for saving their lives. It's simple: Be honest. Say what you believe. Give it to them straight.
The fourth lesson is, in the words of Ali G, 'Respect.' Don't worry, I'm not going to start quoting Borat. Respect is so important - especially in times of conflict. You all know what I'm talking about. In December, The Primary Source printed some things that much of this community ardently disagreed with - that many considered quite offensive. But instead of suppressing the publication - and despite the emotion of the moment - you respected their right to express themselves.
"You discussed the piece, you debated it, you picked it apart. It was a classic example of free speech versus free speech. And in that battle, everyone wins. This country - and other college campuses around the nation - need more of that. I often wonder if people who block each other from expressing their opinions do so because they have so little confidence in their own.
"To me, encountering an opposing view is a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the issues at stake and develop your own point of view. But first you've got to listen. In my generation, the one word of advice you gave to graduates was 'plastics.' Remember that, parents? But today, I think it should be 'respect.'
"The Fifth and final principle in the Bloomberg book 'The more you give, the more you get.' Tufts has an incredibly strong tradition of public service and volunteering. Through Tisch College and the Leonard Carmichael Society, most of you have experienced what it's like to get involved in the community and make a real difference. Don't lose that passion. I've done a lot of cool things: I've thrown out the first pitch at a ballgame dropped the ball in Times Square on New Year's Eve and met Salma Hayek.
"But those thrills are fleeting - believe it or not - and ultimately not as fulfilling. The thrills that stay with you forever are the ones you get from giving back. It's perhaps the most important thing you can do with your lives. I've always believed that. Throughout my business career, I tried to give back whenever and wherever I could.
"Then in 2001, my desire to make a difference led me to take on the biggest challenge - and the biggest risk - of my life: devoting myself to public service full time. Despite the best advice from friends and family, I decided to run for mayor. Now, as someone who's in the position to see up-close-and-personal the real impact of good citizenship I can tell you: every minute of service helps in more ways than you can count.
"So there it is: 'take risks,' 'don't go it alone,' 'give it to them straight,' 'respect others' and give back. The only five things you need to remember to have a successful life. Actually, there's a sixth - Don't forget to call your mother. Right, Mom?
"Whenever I come to the conclusion of a commencement address I always face the same dilemma: How can I tell the graduates that the future is in their hands without frightening the rest of the audience? But the truth is, I have no doubt that the amazing experiences you've had at Tufts are going to help you achieve great things. Many of you are heading into the job market starting tomorrow morning. That can be scary. And some of you may take a little longer. That can be scary, too. My advice to you: don't worry about your salary or title right away.
"As President Bacow will tell you, 'It's a marathon, not a sprint.' Your first job should be something that will teach, humble, and exhilarate. Think of an activity or project you've been involved with - the Tufts Community Union Senate, the Mountain Club, The Zam-boney. The kind of thing you just loved doing, loved the people around you, and loved being there at all hours until the work got done.
"That's how you want to feel at your job. That way, whatever you choose to do, you'll want to go in at 6AM stay until midnight give it your all and it won't even seem like a sacrifice. You'll notice that while luck plays a part in success - the harder you work, the luckier you'll get - and then you'll do better and better. And don't despair if your career path doesn't follow a straight line. Plenty of successful people are doing things that are radically different from where they started.
"Look around you - that party animal who lived across from you in South Hall could be the next Meredith Viera, that sophomore working the front desk at the Gym the next Bill Richardson, that bookish grad student the next Peter Gallagher. There will be ups and downs and sideways.
"I've been hired and fired, lauded and vilified. I've said the most brilliant things that just appeared on my tongue and some of the dumbest things you could imagine. But each day - even the day that I knew I was going to be fired - was a day I looked forward to because I've always felt that tomorrow will be even better.
"It's going to be challenging at times - but the world, more than ever, needs your talent, your ideas, your energy, your great enthusiasm. 'All you really need to know' is everyone here is proud of you and everyone knows you've got what it takes to find success and live out your dreams. So grab one last brew at The Joshua Tree today - because tomorrow, the real work begins!
"Congratulations to you all on this wonderfully joyous day."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958