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Just Don’t Ever Say No to Yourself

Had I known of Chris Matthews’ history as a speechwriter, I might not have been better prepared for the best commencement speech that I’ve ever heard. 


After some local color, he got to his focus, “I want to speak about what I’ve learned all these years watching this country’s leaders–not about the politics that so much divides this country, but for a cause that unites all of us here today: the future of these graduates we’ve come to honor, that they get off to the best possible start in life, that they make the right decisions, the right moves, find the best ways to show and put to use what they’ve got.

He gave simple and direct advice. 

Show Up – “I want you to build a muscle memory for those times when you have to choose between going to something–getting suited up–or skipping it.”

Ask! – Anyone in business out there knows that every salesperson needs to ask for the order, just like you have to ask for the date–don’t you?

The point that resonated most strongly with me was “The important little secret of human politics is that the man or woman who does give you your chance will back you up later. … You see, when someone gives you a job, they’re making an investment in you, a bet on you.  People tend to double-down on that kind of bet.“

Here was Chris’ summary of his key points.

  • Show up! Do everything you can to get in the door.
  • Show up for your friends. Don’t wait for a classmate to call you. You be the one to call up and keep the friendship alive.
  • When you see an opportunity, ask for it. Never say “no” to yourself.
  • And hang on to your values–honesty, loyalty, duty, basic goodness.

All of that is simple advice, which is not to say it is easy.  Full text of Chris Matthews’ speech to the OSU class of 2014.


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