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Spring Convocation Address
Making One Life Count
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Carl Garrott, Professor of Foreign
Languages, delivered ihe Spring Convocation Address on January 16
in Helms Center, which was also Martin Luther King Day. Dr.
Garrott's challenging address has universal appeal, and is reproduced
How Does One Make Life
Count For Something ?
I am very grateful for the invitation to be with you this
morning. I am grateful also because this inviation has
forced me to sort out my thoughts in a puzzling area.
The questions are: How does one really improve one’s
life? How does one make life count for something?
Now, I am sure each of you is thinking to yourself:
How does one really improve one’s life? . . how does
one make life count for something? . . what is this guy
talking about? . . so let me explain.
For many years, I have observed the seasons and the
years rush by, especially after the age of eighteen. As I
quickly scanned the years and those memories, I became
increasingly aware that it was just yesterday that I
walked in the shoes of many of you in this audience
today. Believe it or not, I was a freshman and a,
sophomore. I blinked and I was suddenly thirty-
something. In about four to ten years many of you may
ask yourselves about all the opportunities of life that
slipped by. You may ask yourself: Did I do enough? Did
I reach my potential? Did I fight hard enough? Did I take
that bold chance? Did I throw myself into every task?
If I could wave a magic wand and suddenly become
wise, I think I know what I might say to those who are
about to launch their careers: Take control of your life
and live it with purpose..live it with excitement and zest
. . live it by throwing yourself into each new day, each
new assignment, each new adventure.
I can tell you that there is something special about the
person whose life has been vibrant and who has made a
difference. There is something special about those who
have grappled with the challenges of life and, at least,
have left the world a little better. Today is a memorial to
such a person, Dr. Martin Luther King. These people
must have taken chances. Let’s face it, risk is the
essence of life. If you have a passionate cause, a specific
vision, a distinct cause of action, that’s living.
I believe as each of you move through the seasons, the
years, you may have to engage your imagination, your
energy, your abilities.
Let’s face it, every life has its ups and downs, its
moments of foolishness and failure. There is really no
disgrace in failure. The failure of never looking beyond
the present, of never trying to achieve, of never having
ambition, of never having dreamed, of never being
comfortable with the status quo, of never taking
calculated risks, life becomes devoid of quality; you are
simply not living. In a nation admired all over the world,
think what would have happened if our scientists had let
failure deter them from taking risks in our space
program, if Steve Jobs had not taken risks with the
Apple Computer, if bankers did not take calculated risks
with the new homeowner, if colleges did not take risks
with students. Life cannot be totally predicated upon the
way things have been, it must be also predicated upon
the way things might be, can be. You may see many
angry, frustrated, and distraught people whose ultimate
failure was never giving in to a dream . . to some am
I would not presume, however, to dictate how to live
your lives and I will be true to that promise. But, here
are a few universals, a few positive statements in which I
believe that seem to stand up over the years:
1. Never be concerned about short-term achievement
but the long-term contribution.
2. Learn to compromise and to negotiate especially
when you know there is some principle you honestly
3. Use your imagination to create things that may be:
do not become trapped by the way things have been.
4. It is better to do things than merely to have things.
Money is not everything.
5. Ethical behavior and morals are not ideals, but
codes of conduct. Do not be afraid to do the right thing
and do not be afraid to warn others about unethical
6. Success requires integrity, honor, stamina, in
tellect, drive, conscience and endiusiasm. Never
confuse happiness with success, comfort and fame.
Success, comfort and fame come and go. Happiness
remains as long as you have enjoyable work and peace of
7. Develop a sense of humor: learn to laugh at
yourself; avoid laughing at others. Cynism only hides
fear and self-hate.
8. Learn to listen to friends, parents, teachers and
others; but realize, in the final analysis, there is only one
you. You are the one who is responsible; you must
ultimately solve your own problems. Learn to think for
9. Remember that indifference and apathy may result
in a world in which you may not want to live. Your first
line of defense is the vote.
10. Take risks, dream and act, accept adventure, make
11. Accept some sacrifice. Show some concern for
others: you cannot trample, destroy other lives and
maintain your self-esteem.
Also, I believe that hard work is necessary to get from
point A to point B. I believe in work . . I do not worship
it. All work and no play is as horrible as not work at all.
There are so many wonderful things in our world:
poetry, nature, math and science, art, history, music and
theology. Learn to cultivate a little of each of these
disciplines: that is what a liberal arts education means.
Your professional and your personal life will be richer,
fuller. You can have a prfessional life and some hobbies.
Finally, if you want people of this world to use you
correctly, show them that you care about good work.
Show them that you have integrity, loyalty, good sense,
stamina and a good sense of humor.
If you agree with the idea that the world does not
care, well, you are not likely to change anthing. You
have your work cut out for you. Do not waste too much
of the time you have left. Make some piece of this world
care. Be responsible for your own future and your own
At this point, I would like to offer you a short stanza
often used by Dr. Martin Luther King in many of his
speeches. This stanza by Longfellow is for every student
who has to spend some extra time polishing a com
position in English 101-102, for the student who has to
spend a little extra time reading U. S. History or
Western Civilization, for those who have to work
through a few extra algebra problems, for the future
scientist in the chemistry laboratory, for the business
student wrestling with accounting problems:
“The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight.
But they, while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night. ’ ’
Thank you for the privilege of sharing with you this
day in your lives.
Chowan resident assistants recently received certificates for
completing a non- credit course in “Learning to be a Resident
Assistant, Part I." The course included such topics as
Leadership Styles, Conflict Resolution, Managing Emotions,
Problem Solving, Promoting Personal Development, the
Impact of Residence Hall Living, the College Experience, and
the Educational Process. Above, Elizabeth A. Stark, resident
director of Jenkins Hall, presents certificates to Karen Jo
Howard of Virginia Beach, Ka., and Arthur Shavit.
PAGE 6 - THE CHOWANIAN, February, 1989