A fond farewell to spring 2017 graduates

May 1, 2017

Dear Students,

In just a few days I will enthusiastically, and with great affection, salute 6,939 University of South Carolina graduates. While my hand will be “aching from the shaking,” my heart will be full as I send our seniors on their way, confident that they are well-prepared for their bright futures. For you who will be returning, I hope you can use graduation time as a period for reflection so you can be well prepared for your return as an older student.

More than anything else, being a responsible adult is about using your own judgment to make decisions.


“Older and wiser” is a saying we often hear and it’s true. I want you to feel confident in your growing wisdom and start to be less dependent on the views of others in making your choices. More than anything else, being a responsible adult is about using your own judgment to make decisions. Frankly, it’s easier and more comfortable to rely on others to make your important decisions but I plan on telling our graduates this weekend that they are ready to use their own judgment as the basis for where their lives take them. You are acquiring a great education regardless of your major, because of our Carolina Core, and you are growing older and wiser while at college. Use your growing wisdom to make you even more confident in your judgment. If you must take in messaging from social media, blogs and other “new voices” let them be a background to what you know is best and true. Don’t let these voices be your guide. The only original ideas you will ever have are your own.

You have worked hard, played hard, cheered hard, served our community, learned much and accomplished remarkable things. Not even Hurricane Matthew and the torrential rains of August and October could dampen our spirits long term.


I don’t want to contradict what I just said but I do want to acknowledge that the wisdom that comes from age, experience and education can also be limiting. It can dampen one’s “childlike” belief that dreams can come true or that you can conquer the seemingly impossible For example, after our men’s basketball team defeated Duke to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, I was deliriously happy while congratulating the players and coaches in their locker room. I was so grateful and fulfilled. I knew that the road to the Final Four was daunting so I almost said, “If you never win another game, I’ll still be so happy.” That would have been my wisdom sticking my foot in my mouth! Because as I looked in their eyes and heard their chants, it was clear that they were saying to me, “We plan on going all the way!” I think that this belief is a key reason why we left Madison Square Garden as champions.

What an incredible year we’ve had. You have worked hard, played hard, cheered hard, served our community, learned much and accomplished remarkable things. Not even Hurricane Matthew and the torrential rains of August and October could dampen our spirits long term.

Before you head out of town, stroll over to the Horseshoe and take out your earbuds. Notice the amazing, majestic trees — some of which have been there for over 100 years. Pick one out and look at it in great detail. When you return next August (or graduates when you return for Homecoming), go directly to it and look at it again carefully. I bet you won’t see much difference; but you can bet that the tree has changed. It will be older and, hopefully, stronger … just like you will have changed when you return, not visibly, but you will also be older and wiser. I can’t wait to see you again. Forever to thee!

Go Gamecocks!