Back in the fall, I was in our basement laundry room (I call it the “dungeon”) when the phone rang. I was surprised that it was Wichita State University President Don Beggs. I was stunned when he explained that he was calling to tell me that he was going to present the President’s Medal to me in December at commencement. I was shocked when he explained that meant I would give the commencement address. It was too much to take in. I sat down on a heaping basket of dirty laundry and tried not to cry. I wondered if he and his wife, Shirley, who is my dear friend, had conjured up a funny joke, but he sounded much too sincere. My second thought was, “Please don’t let him look at my transcript.” Me, a commencement speaker? Oh my.
It was an honor and especially thrilling because it’s the last President’s Medal he will present.
Since December, I’ve had several people suggest that I publish my speech in this column. I’ve been asked for a copy of it by some of the grads and parents. The surprises just keep coming. Anyway, since it’s graduation time for many people in the area, I thought I’d go ahead and print it, with just a few tweaks. After a few remarks to the 6,000 people in Koch Arena, I said: