A transcription of Clark’s commencement address to J.P. Knapp students is below.
Congratulations to the JP Knapp graduating class! I am humbled by the chance to join you virtually today.
On a positive note reflecting what will be the short nature of my remarks today, I wanted to share that I cannot for the life of me remember a word said in my own graduation event more than 25 years ago. I think at the time I was so excited to have finished one chapter and so ready to move forward toward future opportunities that I simply didn’t pay much attention, something my teachers may have argued was a customary approach. I might guess you feel much the same way today, and in that spirit, I’ll be brief both in my remarks and perhaps even your memory.
Speaking of opportunities, what a future to behold. This pandemic that brings us together today virtually will be both the great innovator and great accelerator of our lives. Despite the sadness and health care horror of the COVID-19 virus, much creativity will be unleashed in the days and years to come. I am reminded of the quote from Sun Tsu, the Chinese strategist when he wrote that where there is chaos there is also an equal amount of opportunity. Rather than shy from it, run toward it.
As you begin to move forward to the next chapter, you’ll need to pack a few things.
You will need courage–Winston Churchill remarked that courage was the most important human virtue as it was the only one that guaranteed all the others. It will be asked of you.
You will need confidence in yourself. If you don’t have it in yourself, no others will find it there either and you will fall victim to the inevitable and self-defeating criticism that attends to any achievement, effort, or innovation. Without confidence, disappointment awaits.
You will need a commitment to action in deed as well as in thought. Even in the digital world, decisions are still made by people who show up. It is not enough, in the age of the smartphone, for action to be considered merely a comment on a social media channel or an anonymous editorial on the actions of someone else. Human progress depends, very simply, on the doers no matter the place you find yourself. Go be somebody.
Along this journey, your sweetest rewards will be not in the accumulation of things but in creating moments to share with others. Money and status, despite their allure, will not linger in the memory long after the initial sensation wears off.
Your most precious memories, both today and in the years to come, will be based on time spent with loved ones. Over the passage of time, your biggest regrets will attend to the lack of that same time spent with loved ones. Make the choice with the least regret.
All of this is to say simply well done. Much, I’m afraid, will be both expected and indeed asked of you as we the people trudge our way forward from an imperfect past to an imperfect future. I will leave you, as promised, with this brief final tool; alongside your name on your diploma, just before you frame it and hang it rightly on the wall, do this–take out a big black Sharpie marker and write just alongside your name the name of someone who made a sacrifice to get you to this point. You may find you need several names. After you’ve written that name and hung your diploma, it becomes not just a future-facing ticket but a renewable resource for, in the days to come when courage will be required of you, you have only to look at the name or names you wrote–honor, in your actions, those sacrifices. In doing so, you will have earned your success and your place in our republic.
Thank you and have some fun this weekend.
Clark Twiddy is the President of Twiddy & Company Realtors, a local property management firm on the Outer Banks. Last year, the students of JP Knapp’s Future Business Leaders of America worked hard to get Clark chosen as the business person of the year in North Carolina.