Community / May 24, 2018

At UMD Commencement, Al Gore Offers 5 Rules To Live By

In a speech that spanned three themes – personal advice, America's democracy and the environment – former Vice President Al Gore delivered the University of Maryland's commencement address.

In his personal advice, the former congressman and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, offered five rules to live by. He said:

"In researching this speech – true story – I tried to remember who gave the commencement address when I graduated from college, and honestly I have no idea who it was. And I dare say that will be your reaction years from now.

"This is an occasion, it has become the kind of occasion when speakers are invited to give personal advice, and I'm not in the habit of doing that, but I'm going to do that anyway. And then I'm going to say a few words about our American democracy and then you would be surprised if I did not say a few words about the climate crisis as well.

"First of all, by way of personal advice: Don't be a afraid of failure. You have heard some wonderful words about fearlessness and nerve. You will encounter failure, but it's important to keep going. The great Spanish poet, Antonio Machado wrote 'Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.' I can tell you from my personal experience, I flew on Air Force 2 for eight years and now I have to take off my shoes to get on an airplane. I am now a recovering politician, on about Step 9. The longer I go without a relapse the less likely one becomes.

"But I have been surprised and filled with joy to find work that feels to me as if it justifies every ounce of energy that I can pour into it. It is what you decide to do with the obstacles that life throws in your path that matters the most.

"Second: Among all the words of advice that I received when I was a student there was one bit of advice that one of my teachers gave that has stuck with me all through my life. He said, we all face the same choice in life over and over again. It is the choice between the hard right and the easy wrong.

"All of us know that if we pause and reflect, that there is that little voice that is faint, but always there. It is always, always a mistake to ignore that little voice. Listen to it and distinguish it from the constant noise in your rationalizing mind and as you practice you may find it easier to discern the good advice that is always with you.

"Third, happiness is most often found in serving others. I know that sounds like a bromide, but there is voluminous research that now shows that to be scientifically valid.

"Fourth, avoid at all costs hatred and resentment. The greatest political leader I ever met in my life, Nelson Mandela, once wrote 'Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping that it will kill your enemies.'

"Fifth, be kind whenever you can. One of the secrets of the human condition is that suffering binds us together and you have no idea what burdens are being carried by the people you encounter in your life. When I think about regrets in my life, I don't have too many. But the ones that stand out, from time to time I think of them, involve a lack of kindness. Small exchanges, if I enumerated them, you would be surprised at how trivial they might sound to you.

"But I remember them."

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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