Remarks to Fellow Graduates – Blake Hudson

May 16, 2015

There is a lot of talk of self-made men and women. But no one truly achieves greatness on their own. The only things that truly last are people and relationships. So before I go on I want to take this moment to thank everyone who makes a day like this possible. Our Administration, Staff, Teachers, Friends and Family. Without your sacrifices and support we would not be here today, and the least we graduates can do is offer you our gratitude.

Today I want to talk to the graduates about the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead. But, I must remind you that often times the greatest opportunities in life, are simply masquerading as obstacles. There’s a story of a 22 year old from East Moline, Illinois named Chad. Chad grew up with the shores of the Mississippi River as his backyard. When he looked out his window Chad saw thousands of tires, tons of trash, and no trees. Until one day…. He just got sick of seeing it and said “I wanna do something about this,” Now we’re gonna leave Chad’s story there for now. But as I continue to reveal the truths in Chad’s story I want you to put yourself in his shoes and see your story in his.

The Millennial Generation, is defined as being born roughly between 1980-2000. We are young, educated and optimistic. And we as a generation have a choice, will we keep to ourselves and watch history unfold on our Facebook news feed? Or will we RISE UP AND LEAD!? See, each of us is capable of changing our world, but this requires us to come together and offer our unique contributions to the world. I know Millennials like things brief, Cuz, if you can’t Tweet it, they don’t wanna hear it. So today I want to give you 3 simple words that just might change your lives.

  1. Embrace
  2. Endure
  3. Enjoy

Like Chad, before you can ever set out to fix a problem, you must first embrace the fact that one exists. For example, it’s easy to look at me now and think my story begins in success, but every great success, begins with great struggle.

  • I was born to a 21 year old single mother. I grew up in a neighborhood, that was far more hood than neighbor. My house was shot into from drivebys. Our homes were broken into multiple times and I’ll never forget watching my mother fight for her and her children’s lives as she was the victim of a violent home invasion. But see everybody has a past, and while our past’s may explain us, they don’t define us!
  • Eventually I embraced this environment and took ownership for my community, I realized that the problems that persist might not be my fault, but they are my responsibility!

This brings me to my second point, we must endure and transform our obstacles into opportunities. After Chad realized that something needed to be done he rolled up his sleeves and he tried to clean the river…by himself! And all too often we try and fix our problems by ourselves and our first efforts are futile.

  • I knew that I wanted to make my community a better place but I had to get an education first. While I excelled in school initially, I hit some bumps along the way. I got distracted and lost focus. And once I got to High School, to say I struggled is putting it lightly. My H.S. GPA was a 1.PleaseLetMeOut. Did I graduate, BARELY! In fact, there might still be some homework assignments I need to turn in. But I made it out and I got a fresh start at my local community college. I got involved and became a member of my institution not just a student. But as soon as I turned things around and finally started to see the light, I was knocked back down. At the end of freshman year, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Truthfully, I wanted to quit, because life just seemed unfair. But I endured! I spent my sophomore year as a full time student working six different jobs at the same time, to help my mother and my family make ends meet. My mom also endured! And today she is cancer free!
  • But here’s the cool thing about endurance, when you set out to accomplish something on your own that’s bigger than your capacity, other people get inspired and come serve right beside you.

This brings me to my final point we can enjoy the new environment we create. For those of you wondering how Chad’s story ends, Chad realized he could not fix the problem on his own. But, today, through his warm embrace of the problem, and great endurance to fix it, he has attracted over 80 thousand volunteers who’ve recycled 8 million pounds of trash and – planted 1 million trees. And Just 2 years ago Chad Pregracke was named CNN’s American Hero. And remember he was just a 22 year old kid! By a show of hands how many 22 year olds do we have here today? Don’t let anybody tell you you’re too young to achieve greatness! So I say to you graduates embrace the reality of a cause you believe in, and endure through the struggle until you can enjoy the success!

  • For me, as an MPA grad, my river is Illinois Politics. Going into that field many people ask me what do you want to be Blake, President? Governor? But I say to them it’s not about the position I’m pursuing, it’s about the person I’m becoming. And for us here today, it’s about the passions we’re perfecting! We must always allow the passion for service to lead us into position.

So as I close today, Graduates I have good news for you! The job market isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. In fact there’s a job for each and every graduate in this room. You might not see an ad in the paper, you might not see a sign in the window. But Help is no longer wanted, it’s needed! We NEED you! SO CLASS OF 2015, OUR MOTTO IS LEADERSHIP LIVED, AND NOW’S THE TIME, TO RISE UP AND LEAD!