C change

Wharton B. "Zie" Rivers Jr.

On Saturday, former vice rector of the JMU board of visitors Wharton B. “Zie” Rivers Jr., delivered the commencement address to the 773 December graduates of the Class of 2011. The telecommunications executive and retired Army office shared with graduates a prescription for success — four “Cs” that lead to success, the kind of success that has the potential to change the world.

In excerpts below, Mr. Rivers’ message bears repeating — and remembering.

Competence, he said, is the first “C.” That means a whole lot more than being well versed in your field.  It does not matter if you are graduating from the College of Arts and Letters as a linguist or from the College of Applied Science and Engineering as a geographic scientist or from the College of Arts and Sciences as a chemist.  It really does not matter; you got to know your stuff.  That is what your professors have been working hard to help you master during the past four years or so.  They have prepared you well—now it is your turn! 

Commitment is the second “C.” No matter how well you have learned your lessons, you have got to jump in with both feet.  And that requires Hard Work and Passion! …. If you ever need a good example of commitment, think back to the time your professors opened their doors to you and listened to you and helped you.  They didn’t have to do that.  At a lot of other colleges, professors don’t do that, but here at JMU they do.  I would bet that every one of you sitting out there is bound to be thinking of at least one professor who did that for you.  Their willingness to help you, their commitment to teaching has made a huge difference in your life.

Candor is the third “C.” No matter how competent and committed you are, candor-honesty-will set you apart.  You have to tell the truth, to yourself and the people around you.  Candor is the kind of honesty that leads to open and productive communication. 

Courage is the fourth “C.”  You will need courage. You will need it more often than you think.  Most of you are heading into one of the roughest job markets we have seen in a long time, and it is likely that it will take some of you a while to find a job.  You might fail a few times.  It takes courage to fail and keep trying.  When you do, think about the late Steve Jobs.  He got fired from the company he started. He returned a few years later to build the most innovative and valuable company in the country.   

This prescription, the speaker said, will lead to another C — the one for which JMU is known. Change.  Take what you have learned from professors who have committed their lives to educating you.  Then seek out and commit to your own worthwhile endeavors.  Practice candor by living ethically and finally, muster the courage to do hard things.  If you do—you can’t help but Be the Change!


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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