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Listening to “your own minds and hearts is your best key to success,” he tells graduates

President Dan Weiss delivered farewell remarks to the class of 2006 today at the 171st Commencement.

Many of you have spoken to me about how your feelings are mixed about what it means to be leaving Lafayette College. Four years ago, you gathered here on this lawn as a collection of strangers, and now you are the members of the class of 2006, linked for the rest of your lives to this College and to each other. It is in many ways a remarkable milestone in your lives, and I would ask you to reflect on the fact that this is a commencement, which is to say, a beginning.

As you sit and reflect on your life here, your history here, and as we celebrate your achievements and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished, we also begin to think in earnest about tomorrow. Tomorrow your new life begins. (You can have the day off today.)

In reflecting on what’s ahead, I’m sure you have many thoughts about how well prepared you are but indeed also questions about what’s to happen next: How can you be successful? What is your path to success?

I would like to suggest, borrowing from the thoughts of Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian, that if you can figure out what makes you happy, you can be successful, and not the other way around. If you can learn to listen to your own minds and hearts, that will be your best key to success. Pay attention: it’s not so easy to receive that information; there’s a lot of ambient noise. Identify what engages you and makes you happy. Then if you dedicate yourself singularly to achieving the things that make you happy, you have a much better chance of being both successful and happy. These are thoughts you’ve heard today from Debbie Bial and from many of us over your time here. I want to reaffirm them because I think it’s very important as you reflect on what happens next to pay attention to what engages your spirit and your heart and your mind.

What happens next is entirely up to you, what you’d like to accomplish and what you’d like to do in the next chapters of your lives. You are probably more than ever in your life going to be on your own, but you are not alone. You are going to be supported by friends and family and, always, by us. You are for the rest of your lives members of this community, alumni of Lafayette College. We are here for you. Call us, come see us. We’ll follow your progress with great interest and will be here to support you. We’re enormously proud of you and your achievements and we celebrate them with great enthusiasm.

On a personal note, this is, of course, my first graduating class, and I thank you for all the support you’ve provided to me. I’ve learned an enormous amount from you; your engagement, your energy, your wisdom, and your candor have meant a great deal to me. So many of you have touched my life in many important ways, and I count you all as colleagues and friends.

I thank you, I wish you all the best, and I look forward to staying in touch in the years ahead.

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