UVU Commencement

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Tiffany Frandsen | Managing Editor | @tiffany_mf

Photo credit: Gabi Campbell | @gabicampbellphotos

Mitt Romney and UVU President Matthew S. Holland advised UVU graduates to value friendship, happiness and hard work over money at the 2015 Commencement ceremony on April 30, 2015.

Check out highlights and the full transcripts of both Holland and Romney’s speeches below.






















Mitt Romney address: 

President Holland, trustees, faculty, honored guests, and weary parents.  To the class of 2015: Well done, and congratulations.

To you parents, the years of investment and prayers have added up to this joyful achievement. Hopefully, you are about to experience the new American Dream which is no longer owning your own home; it is getting your kids out of the home you own.

My grandson is understandably concerned about where, exactly, lions and tigers actually live. He’s hears that they live in Africa, but he’s not entirely sure where that is. When I told him I was coming here, he asked me whether I would see any

It’s a funny thing about little kids: they don’t see much beyond what’s right around them. They see their family, their school, maybe their city or town, but they just can’t imagine distant places. Their vision, their world is like a small circle, bounded by their very limited experience.

Having now completed sixteen years of education, your world has become breathtakingly large, almost without boundaries. With such vastness and with so many possible directions to take, some of you may understandably feel somewhat anxious and uncertain. You may even be tempted to look for a smaller, more comfortable world, one that’s less complex, and less demanding. That’s not who you are and that’s not what you’ve been prepared to do. To experience a fulfilling, purposeful life, one thing you’re going to have to do is this: live a large life.

Living large means embracing every fruitful dimension of life.

It means continuing to expand your world and engaging in it as fully as you are able.

Let me offer a few suggestions about how to do that. The first involves your friends.

I remember sitting in a business class, looking around the room and thinking to myself that I’d probably never see any of these people again after I graduated. All my attention was focused on what was being taught. But you know what, I’ve forgotten almost everything that was taught; it’s the classmates I remember, and it’s those friends that I value most today.

40 years since my graduation, the people in my six person study group continue to get together. We’ve congratulated one another on our highs and consoled one another on our lows.

Believe it or not, your parents can become even closer friends than they are today. My friend Stuart Stevens decided to take his father to every single Ole Miss football game, home or away. What’s unusual about that is that his father is 95 years old. And Stuart had moved away from home for college over 40 years ago. He lives in Vermont and his Dad lives in North Carolina. So these father-son excursions would involve a great deal of time and travel…and long talks. He would dig deep into understanding his Dad: his personality, his dreams and his fears. Delving so far into his father’s personhood, their friendship deepened, and their relationship expanded in such interesting ways that a noted New York publisher, Knopf, will publish a book about their experience this fall.

Your life will be larger if you value and nourish friendships, friends  here at UVU, from your home, and from the growing circle of your life.

For most of you, living life to the fullest will also mean marriage and children. I don’t expect that everyone here believes as I do that the Bible is the word of God or even that it is inspired by God. If not, then at least you will have to acknowledge that it represents the wisdom of the ages, written by extraordinary thinkers and philosophers. Either way, its counsel warrants serious attention.

In its opening pages, Adam gives this direction: “therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  The “one flesh” part we get, but the part about leaving mom and dad and getting married trips some people up.

I’m surely not going to tell you when to tie the knot. You’ve got parents who will do that. But I will tell you that marriage has been the single-most rewarding part of my life, by far. Marriage involves passion, conflict, emotion, fear, hope, compromise, understanding–in short; it is living to the max.

And then children. In the Old Testament, Psalm 127 says: “children are a heritage of the Lord… As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”

I’m not sure whether having five sons qualifies as a full quiver, but I can affirm that they brought immeasurable happiness, as promised by the Psalmist. And to my point, they engaged Ann and me in ways we would not have expected.

On one occasion, Ann and I were invited to speak to students at Harvard Business School about our choice of careers, I as a management consultant and she as a full-time mom. Ann was reluctant, in part because two other couples would also be speaking on the same topic, and both of the other women had chosen to be Wall Street bankers.

In the class, the other couples went first. I followed, and Ann spoke last. She explained that while she expected to have a career outside the home in the future, she had chosen to be a full-time mom until her five kids were raised. She went on to explain that her job had required more of her than she had imagined: she was psychologist, tutor, counselor, scoutmaster, coach, nurse practitioner, nutritionist, budget director, and more. When she sat down, the class was silent for several seconds and then it rose in a standing ovation.

Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel, was asked what her greatest accomplishment was. “Raising my daughter,” she answered.

Marriage and children expand your world and engage you more fully in it.

There’s a Hires burger joint not far from here. It’s one of my favorites. Its founder, Don Hales, put out a little book of his homespun wisdom. He says that to be happy requires three things: someone to love, something to look forward to, and something to do, in other words, work. You might be inclined to think that a Garden of Eden life would be preferable to working at a job, but you’d be wrong. I’m convinced that Adam and Eve would have been bored to tears if they’d stayed in the garden: no kids, no challenges, no job. I think that Adam being made to grow food “by the sweat of his brow” was a blessing, not a curse.

Of course, there’s a lot not to like about a job: the early alarm clock, the rush hour traffic, the stress. But work engages you in life. You come to know more people, to understand their motivations and values, and to learn the intricacies of the enterprise that employs you.

Don’t waste time bemoaning your job. Don’t skim by with the minimum of effort. Dive in. Get more from your job than the paycheck. Hard work is living large.

There’s a part of life that you won’t welcome: bad things. Bad things that happen to you. If you’re like I was, you imagine that bad things happen infrequently and that when they do, they mostly happen to other people.

I used to sit in church and look around the congregation. Everyone was smiling and happy. Life seemed to be nothing but puppies and pansies for everybody. And then my church asked me to serve as the pastor of that congregation. As pastor, I got to really know the people behind those smiling faces. And to my surprise, many of them held what Ann and I call a “bag of rocks” behind their back. That bag of rocks could be a chronic illness, a battle with some kind of addiction, a child that couldn’t keep up in school, unemployment, a financial crisis, withering loneliness, or a marriage on the rocks. To my surprise, almost every single family faced one kind of challenge or another. They all had a bag of rocks behind their backs. We all will hurt.

Engaging in your world means accepting that hurt, confronting it, and endeavoring to ascend above it so that you can keep pursuing a fulfilling and abundant life.

During my campaign, I met Sam Schmidt in Las Vegas. In January of 2000, Sam’s Indianapolis racing car hit the wall. This father of two young children spent five months on a respirator and was rendered quadriplegic–he can move nothing below his neck. He and I spoke about his life today: his morning begins with a two to three hour routine for bowel, bladder, teeth, shower and dressing. That would be enough for a lot of people to just give up. But instead, Sam owns and manages an Indy car racing team which regularly dominates the Indy Lights, having won 60 races. And he himself has actually begun to drive again. He has a Corvette that has been fitted out with special controls. To accelerate, he blows in an air tube. To brake, he sucks the air out of it. To turn left or right, he looks carefully left or right respectively. Accordingly, he warned his racing buddies: “You gotta keep the bikinis out of the grandstands because you don’t want any sudden movements.”

Sam’s disability is still there. He endures it every day, every hour. But that has not kept him from fully engaging in life.

Your career may be very different than you expect.

The biggest departure from my predicted career path came with my decision to run for political office. When I stepped into the auditorium to debate Ted Kennedy in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall, I turned to Ann and asked: “In your wildest dreams, did you see me running for US Senate?” “Mitt,” she replied, “you weren’t in my wildest dreams.” Actually, she didn’t say that. That was a joke I bought for my campaign from a joke writer.

Through all my occupations, I have experienced successes and failures. I am asked what it felt like to lose to President Obama. Well, not as good as winning. Failures aren’t fun, but they are inevitable.

More importantly, failures don’t have to define who you are. Some people measure their life by their secular successes–how high on the corporate ladder did they get? How much money did they make? Did they do better than their high school classmate? One business partner of mine went back to his high school reunion in Fort Scott, Kansas. As a wealthy financier, he expected to be voted by his 50 or so former classmates as the most successful graduate. To his dismay, a local doctor took that honor. So at the reunion five years later, this partner of mine charted a jet to fly him to Fort Scott. It buzzed the town before landing at the tiny airport. Predictably, this time he won the vote.

If that’s the kind of vote you’re looking for, you’re bound to be disappointed. Life has way too much chance and luck–good and bad–to be assured that kind of success. And if your life is lived for money and position, it will be a shallow and unfulfilling journey.

The real wealth in life is in your friendships, your marriage, your children, what you have learned in your work, what you have overcome, your relationship with God, and in what you have contributed to others.

This last dimension, contribution to others, is often the most overlooked and most undervalued.

Tom Monaghan’s father died when Tom was just four years old. His mother entrusted him to a Catholic orphanage because she was unable to care for him and for his brother. He graduated from high school and enrolled in the University of Michigan. The tuition proved to be beyond his reach, so to help meet costs, he and his brother bought and ran a pizza shop for $900. When he had expanded it to three shops, his brother sold his interest to Tom for a used Volkswagen.

He called his shops Domino’s and Tom became wealthy. He bought a Bugatti for $8.4 million. He bought the Detroit Tigers and won the World Series the next year. He began construction of a massive modern home, one that would rival his majestic corporate office in Ann Arbor.

When I met him in 1998, I was surprised to find him seated in a closet-sized ante-chamber to what had once been his lavish and spacious executive suite. He had sold the Tigers, the car, and had stopped construction of his mansion. Tom had signed what was called the Millionaire’s  Vow of Poverty. Accordingly, he would not drive a luxury car, fly in a private plane, or assume any of the trappings of wealth. That had included trading his impressive office for the small cubicle where I had found him.

Tom explained that reading the Bible and the essays of C.S. Lewis had reminded him of his upbringing in the Catholic orphanage. He wanted to change his life, and devote his remaining years to service.

On behalf of Bain Capital, I ultimately wrote Tom a check to buy Domino’s for over $1 billion. All but a small living stipend he then turned around and donated to Catholic charities. He founded a college and named it, not after himself, but after Mary: Ave Maria University.

I asked him a few weeks ago what was the most rewarding part of his life–winning the World Series, building Domino’s, or driving his Bugatti. You can guess his answer. “It wasn’t the toys–I’ve had enough toys to know how important they aren’t. It was giving back, through the university.”

Living life in fullness includes serving others, and doing so without pride or personal gain. It will fill your heart and expand your mind. I’ve seen that kind of service in large and small ways in my own family.

My sister has devoted the last 45 years of her life to the care and development of her Down syndrome son. My wife volunteered as a teacher for a class of at-risk girls. My mother was a frequent visitor to the homes of shut-ins and widows. My brother-in-law served in the Navy. My cousin Joan was foster mother to 57 children. My father and I both ran for political office.

Wait a second: that last item, running for office, may not seem like real service to you. I know that for some, politics is an occupation, and a fine one at that. But for Dad and me, it came after our careers were over. I believed, and my father believed, that we could really help people if we were elected.

Most of you probably won’t run for office, but the country needs all of you to serve. America faces daunting challenges: generational poverty, looming debt, a warming climate, and a world that is increasingly dangerous and tumultuous. Washington appears inept, powerless and without an effective strategy to overcome any of these. America needs your passion, your impatience with inaction, your participation in the political discourse. Engaging in your world includes engaging in citizenship–stay informed, influence others, campaign for people you trust, and for the sake of preserving freedom, vote.

The cozy little world of your childhood is long gone. You may be tempted to try to create for yourself that same kind of small and safe circle, concentrating on entertainments for yourself, doing the minimum at work, reading nothing because nothing has been assigned, avoiding meaningful commitments, complaining about the inevitable unfairnesses of life. Alternatively, you can live large by expanding your world and engaging in your world, constantly learning, nourishing friendships, overcoming reversals, and serving others. That is the road less travelled, and it will make all the difference.

God bless you in your life’s journey.


UVU President Matthew S. Holland: 

Thank you, Curtis, for your encouraging words to our newest alumni, and thank-you to the UVU Symphony Orchestra for the beautiful music. It is now my privilege to share a few thoughts with you.

Now, if I were really smart, at this point, I would simply follow some of the best graduation speech advice I ever got. A number of years ago, as I was working to prepare my first set of commencement remarks, I hit a bit of a blank spot and turned to my then seven-year-old daughter and said, Gracie, what should I say to the students at graduation? Without missing a beat, she looked up and said, “Tell them, ‘Congrats, Badabing Badaboom! Have a great summer!’”

That is probably all you need in a speech from me, and certainly all you want. Nevertheless, I press on … but with just one little nugget of advice for you as you take this momentous step forward in your life.

To introduce this idea, I turn to that rich and wonderful world of the American Founding. When Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues put pen on paper and asserted that everyone was endowed with certain inalienable rights, they launched a revolution. They also launched a major linguistic controversy. In his original rough draft of the Declaration, Jefferson wrote of our in-alienable rights. By the time it got through final drafting process and back from the printer, the Declaration read un-alienable rights. Ever since, prominent academic linguists have vigorously debated whether it should be unalienable rights or inalienable rights. Fortunately, this crucial controversy was recently settled by one of the great masters of the English language, George W. Bush, who, on a trip through Europe a few years ago referred to our un-in-alienable rights.

As Jefferson and his colleagues went on to say, among these rights are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The formulation here is interesting. It is well noted that Jefferson’s logic and very language follow exactly in line with the writing of English philosopher John Locke from roughly a century before. That is with one big exception. Where Jefferson writes, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Locke writes, “life, liberty and property.” The distinction here gets at the heart of the one message I would leave you with tonight.

Tonight is a happy night. And, the faculty and administrators of UVU have no greater wish for you than that you go forward and forge a life of happiness. In many respects, what we have been up to here with you for the last few years is doing everything in our power to equip you with skills and habits that we believe will substantially add to your ability to find happiness. Whether it is experiencing the joy that can come from reading a truly great piece of literature, or looking at a magnificent work of art, or creating from scratch a new and workable technology, I trust that you leave here with abilities and inclinations that open up whole new realms of happiness and satisfaction that just did not exist for you before. I also trust that you leave here with far more advanced skills critical to earning a living and acquiring wealth. That is important, essential even, and we wish you great success in those areas too. My one caution, however, is, think more like Jefferson and the Founders than Locke. When it comes to your life and liberty, pursue happiness, recognizing that happiness is about something bigger, and richer than property, or material wealth, alone.

To underscore this point, I might turn to an array of luminaries in philosophy or the social sciences. But, for tonight, perhaps the simple wisdom of a grandmother will do.

When John Ortberg, of Barrington, Massachusetts, was growing up, he spent quite a bit of time with his grandmother. The picture he paints of her would seem to come straight from a Norman Rockwell painting. By the time he knew her, she was a widow, having raised six children all on her own. He also remembers her as an extremely gracious and loving person, except for the fact that she was the most ruthless Monopoly player he’d ever known. To get a clear, contemporary picture about this, imagine that Donald Trump married Kim Kardashian and they had a child. Picture that child as an adult on reality TV and you will have some idea what his grandmother was like when she played Monopoly. As Ortberg says, “when I would get my money at the beginning of the game, I wouldn’t want to let go of it. But my grandmother understood the name of the game was acquisition. The money was simply how you keep score. So every time she landed on something she would buy it, and then she would mortgage that to get something else and so forth. Eventually, she would become master-of-the-board. She would beat us every time. And then when she had finished defeating us, she would look at us and say, ‘Someday, you’ll learn to play the game.’

“I hated it when she would say that: ‘Someday, you’ll learn to play the game.’ Then one summer I played all summer long, every day, with a kid who lived kitty-corner from us. We would start playing in the morning, play through lunch, and right up until it was time to go home to dinner. That summer I learned how to play the game. I learned that money is how you keep score. I learned how to become master-of-the-board. So when that fall came and we went to this little cabin for a vacation, I was ready to play Monopoly with my grandmother. I was ready to do whatever it took to beat my grandmother. My palms were sweaty as we started to play the game. Relentlessly, inexorably, I drove her off the board.

This game, Monopoly, can do strange things to you. I can still remember … it happened at Marvin Gardens … and I looked at my grandmother: she was an old lady, she was a widow, she had raised my mother, she loved me … and I took everything she had. I destroyed her financially and emotionally … I watched her give me her last dollar, and quit, in utter defeat. It was one of the great moments of my life!

“But, then my grandmother had one more thing to teach me. She said to me, ‘Now, John, it all goes back in the box, you know.’ All of the houses and the hotels, Boardwalk and Park Place, the railroads and the utilities, and all of that wonderful, wonderful money … it all goes back in the box. Well, I didn’t want it to go back in the box. I wanted to leave the game out. Bronze it, maybe, as a perpetual testimony to my skill at being master-of-the-board. ‘It all goes back in the box,’ she said. Which is another way of saying, ‘Of course, none of it was ever really yours in the first place.’ It was here long before you were here … this game. And it will be here long after you’re done. For a little while, as a player, you get to manage a little bit of it. But none of it was ever really yours. The players come and the players go … the players always come and the players always go. And the game goes on. ‘It all goes back in the box,’ my grandmother would say to me.”

As I look out across this massive sea of bright, talented, and now well-trained dynamos, I see waves and waves of future success. Whether that success is great material success or not, I hope you will all remember that happiness is more than property. Giving of your time, and talents, and treasure to other people and great causes is not just noble, it is a source of genuine and lasting joy. It’s been said that “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.” So, take that spectacular new UVU degree of yours and, by all means, make a living, but, most of all, make a life, and a blissful one at that. Thank you very much.

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