Ezra Nanes - Smeal MBA Graduation, Student Keynote Speech
This is the text of the speech, the student keynote, I delivered at the Smeal MBA Graduation Ceremony on May 5, 2012.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Ezra Nanes - Smeal MBA Graduation, Student Keynote Speech
Ezra Nanes, MBA ‘12 Penn State Smeal College of Business Pre-Commencement Speech, May 5, 2012 (please note: section headings in bold will not be spoken) Good afternoon everyone. What an incredible day. MBA’s thank you for the honor and the privilege of speaking here today. This is a true story. Verse One: Finding Oneself in the Pursuit of a Vision I once found myself alone, high up on a great mountain standing on the shore of a lake called Solitude. How I came to be there... well, it was my own two feet that carried me. Standing there, having reached my goal, I looked down between the toes of my boots and saw my face reflected in the glassy mirror of the lake -‐ my own two eyes looking back at me. But it was more than my reflection that I saw. I could somehow see myself. And, right then and there, high up on that mountain, on the shore of that lake, I knew exactly who I was. It wasn’t a thought or an idea that came to my mind, but a feeling -‐ like a bright point of light inside me, shining like an eternal sun. I thought of my mom and my dad and my brother and my friends and my family. And standing there, alone, I knew what it meant to be loved. Verse Two: Facing the Challenge At that very moment, behind my reflection, the sky turned dark, and a chill breeze raised goose bumps on my arms. I looked up beyond the towering rocky cirque that surrounded me, and there massed in the sky above the peaks was a giant, growling thunderhead. A massive storm – slate grey and foreboding and awesome and beautiful. A rush of fear hit me, and my lungs sucked in a deep breath of the electric air. The heavens were about to unleash their fury, and I was exposed. And then, the first drop fell, striking the water. And then another. And another. From each point a million ripples echoed outward, shattering the pristine mirror of the lake. My moment of stillness on the mountain was no more. Now was the time for action. I reached in to my backpack and grabbed my poncho. I made quick calculations. Nine miles to shelter. For it was nine miles I had come. I looked all around me. Not a soul in sight. Only one way down the mountain. I breathed in to my belly, which was full of the animal instinct to run. But, run I did not. I desperately wanted control over the situation, but I knew there was only one thing to do, and that was put one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again. And so, scared and prepared I sought the homeward trail. Verse Three: The Journey Home For miles I could hear only the rain, so hard did it fall. But I was dry under my poncho, and I felt good. I love that feeling of being impervious to the elements. So magic, to be out in the full experience of nature, and in some small way not be at its mercy. 1
I walked on, through alpine meadows full of wildflowers and through pine forest groves, through open rocky passes and through narrow, walled passages. I listened intently for sounds beyond the hum of the storm – fully aware that I was in the heart of grizzly bear country. I was alert for any sign of movement, and more than once I thought I was not alone. Tree stumps and shadows become fearsome beasts in my peripheral vision -‐ artifacts of my mind. But in the end, no danger ever did appear. Eventually, after a long, long while, I found myself walking under a clear, indigo sky, the alpine storm behind me. Out ahead in the flats, beneath banks of orange and pink cloud, I could see the campground, where I knew my brother waited for me. Walking up to the tent, I felt proud of my journey and so happy to be done with it. It was great to see my brother again. I ask you, how is it that the toughest things become so rich and satisfying when you share them with someone? Verse Four: The Reward and the Lessons Learned I showered up and I got dressed in the best clothes I had with me, and my brother Marc and I went out to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and we ate the best gosh-‐darned steaks we ever had. I love that story. At the time, I didn’t realize that it would come to be a defining moment in my life, but so it was. Now THIS moment on the other hand, I have no doubt that this, right here, is -‐ and will forever be -‐ one of the great moments of all of our lives. MBA’s, class of 2012, we have arrived! We have completed our epic journey. We have become Masters. The story that I just told makes me think so much of our time here at Smeal as MBA students in the Class of 2012. So many times have we found ourselves facing down an awesome and terrifying challenge, a challenge that we sought -‐ a test, a speech, an interview, a presentation, a case competition, an all-‐nighter -‐ (all of the above on the same day!) -‐ another survey on survey monkey, trying to get an answer out of a financial calculator faster than Jason Jones can do it in his head, trying to figure out what Denny Gioia’s ties really mean, another cup of that coffee at the buzz. Chorus: Our Strength Comes from You On this journey, there are times when we must stand alone, on the shore of Lake Solitude, having scaled a great height. We come to know ourselves through these challenges. Come to know what we are made of. But what gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other and what makes it all worthwhile are the people waiting there for us on the other side. Our families, our friends, our classmates, our communities. They remind us of why we set out to do something that is so hard. When you are surrounded by this kind of love -‐ love that gives you the courage to follow your own heart, wherever it may lead -‐ life is truly sweet. 2
And you know, in these two years at Smeal, I’ve learned that for me, the goal is not up there on the top of the mountain. For me, the goal is making it back home. MBA’s lets take a moment to thank the people who have stood by us and supported us through this journey – our spouses and significant others, our children, our parents, our brothers and sisters, grandma and grandpa, our cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and our beloved friends. Let’s clap it up. They deserve it! Verse Five: A Moment of Pride in Your Heroes Now, families and friends, I want to say something about your MBA in the Smeal Class of 2012. They have come here because they want to make a difference in this world. They are not content with the status quo. They came here to be better, stronger, smarter, more effective, more efficient, more expert. They have worked so hard to be what they really want to be – which is your hero. I hope you are proud of your MBA and of the support that you have given to them. I know I am. Chorus: Our Strength Comes from You Before I conclude, I’d like to say something, on behalf of our class. I want to say a profound thank you to the faculty, administration and staff of the Smeal College of Business. YOU ARE TRULY, TRULY AMAZING. You have given us so much of yourselves in these past two years. You have taught us with passion and intelligence and inspiration. You have provided structure and support and opportunity. But most importantly you have enabled us to learn for ourselves how to lead, how to persevere and how to succeed! For all of this and so much more, THANK YOU!!! The Bridge: A Call to Action and a Fond Farewell My sweet Class of 2012. What can I say? I love you. You’ve really gotten inside my heart. I’m going to miss seeing you all every day. Seeing your smiling faces in the mornings before class lifted me up -‐ made me feel valued. You’ve challenged me to be my best self so that I could be worthy of your appreciation, which means so much to me. And you know, as hard as it’s been, it’s also been incredibly fun!! We will never be all together like this again. But I am comforted by the knowledge that we have become a part of one another. Our experience here has become true north on our internal compass. It has become our point of reference. Wherever we may go, though we may not see one another, for the rest of our lives we will guide each other through our toughest decisions, through the challenges we face to achieve our goals and on the journey back home again. Now listen MBA’s, go out there and make a difference. Trust your heart and the light inside of you. Show the world what you’ve got to give. Go out there and be the hero that you already are, live your dreams, and always remember – we are... Penn State. 3