RT. Rev. Hilliard K. D. Dogbe, PhD
Chairman, Board of Trustees;
Rev. Dr. Mulbah B. Gray, Sr.
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees;
Dr. Benjamin D. Lartey
President, African Methodist Episcopal Zion University;
Rev. Emmanuel F. Johnson, I
Bishop’s Deputy, Liberia Region;
The Board of Trustees;
Staff and members of the University Senate Faculty;
Parents and Guardians here present;
Members of the Graduating Class;
All Government Officials here present;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
My Fellow Countryman
All Protocols Observed
I want to, first of all, extend thanks and appreciation to the A.M.E. Zion University for affording me the opportunity to serve as Commencement Speaker for the 30th Commencement Convocation of this unique University. I feel greatly honored to be selected among many notable and many distinguished personalities who would have served otherwise. I am grateful for the recognition. Once again, I say thanks for the trust and confidence you all have reposed in me!
A.M.E. Zion University iseasily one of Liberia’s greatest and top-notch Tertiary Institutions of Higher Learning, reputed over the years for turning out many high grade Graduates and well-respected individuals who have positively impacted their Communities, the Liberian State, and Society, and the world at large. Prior to the establishment of other universities of higher learning in the 1990’s, AME Zion University competed and measured to the few viable and outstanding universities in Liberia including the University of Liberia, Cuttington University and W.V.S. Tubman University. Given the farsightedness of our distinguished President and Faculties of this august University, AME Zion University is now on par with these universities in academic works, accreditation and expansion.
To the Graduating Students—this is certainly your day, and I congratulate you profoundly on your achievement for the job well done. Thanks for the hard work, and for the countless nights and days you took to study amid the many difficulties and challenges you have had to go through. Your struggles will not be unsuccessful; as we can all see the ripe fruits; they already began to bear.
I know you are here today because of the great dreams you have had. If that was not so, you will not have been here today. Your dreams and aspirations, I would say, are already beginning to materialize. I know this because you are graduating from a great Institution that has prepared you exceptionally well, having completed all your requirements with excellence.
I want you to bear in mind, however, that the world you are about to enter as Graduates a few hours from now is not different from the world you have lived in. The world can be exciting, sometimes chaotic, and always prone to problems, obstacles, difficulties, disappointments, and hard lucks. However, it is; nevertheless, open to anyone ready to carve his or her own path for either success or failure. You have to continue to keep your heads up high and face the greater challenges to reach your academic peak.
Howbeit, you have been prepared not only on the academic front, but also mentally to become problem solvers. You must also remember that your parents have played their part in your educational sojourn. They have spent hugely to give you a solid University education, so do not disappoint them. Use your skills, your knowledge, and everything you have learned, to make real and meaningful change with them—and become your own problem-solvers. You may not be able to solve or fix all of your problems; but, you can surely fix some because you have been placed in the position through the education you have received to do so, and you must do so diligently and propitiously.
University life has given you considerable disposition to start a working life; because I know that you have been challenged, encouraged, and supported multiple times while undergoing University life; thus giving me the assurance and confidence that your future is secured, as you have been prepared by highly proficient professors.
Now, it is time to prove your worth as a University Graduate.
To be sure, however, your dreams and aspirations cannot happen if you do not set Expectations. In “Setting Higher Expectations,” a topic that I am being asked to speak on today—you must follow two golden rules. These rules are simple, but yet difficult to follow and live by. These two golden rules are RISK and IMAGINATION.
As I elaborate on these golden rules, please bear with me as I take you on a journey how I applied these two rules to become a successful businessman.
First on The Question of Risk Taking
35 years ago, I was in India going to Law School at Guru Nanak Dev. University, Amritsar, India where I graduated with a BABC Degree, and was pursuing a second degree in Law at the same University when halfway through the Course for a Law degree, I quitted the University for a business opportunity in Liberia. That decision left my family gravely heartbroken, angry and furious, as they wanted me to become a Lawyer. They were angry because I neglected their chosen career path for me; but being a Lawyer was never my calling, so I took a great risk to quit Law School and pursue my dreams.
Quite honestly, I am not going to stand here and tell you that taking Risk is fun. Making that move was one of the hardest decisions I had to make since I was leaving behind my privilege as a son of a wealthy middle class Indian family. I was afraid of failures, and too many negative thoughts came to my mind, but as a person, who follows dreams, whether big or small, I needed to pursue activities and take actions to make my dream a reality.
I had a dream of becoming a business tycoon and decades later, that dream has now become a reality. However, this realization would not have happened if I had not taken the Risk to abandon my Law Studies to pursue what I love doing the most—business.
The decision to quit College and leave behind the affluence and strong financial support of my family was scary and frightening to me at first, because I had to start from scratch while in Liberia. I had to work to earn a living, instead of being fed with it as my family did for me back in India. This period was one of the darkest days in my life and I had no idea how long the struggle in achieving my dream was going to last and when I was going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, it was hope, hard work, discipline and dedication that kept me going. It was hope and determination that made me realize that the Risk I took was not going to be meaningless.
If I had not taken that risk, I would have ended up doing what was not my passion. To become successful, you inevitably have to take Risk. If you are afraid of taking risk because of the fear of failure, you will fail no matter what the circumstances. Failure is inevitable and it is impossible to live without failing even if you live cautiously. So do not be afraid of taking risk—once it is backed by the passion of work, it is going to fill a large part of your life.
The question is why do I talk about the benefits of Risk? It is because Risk takes away fears—as fear blocks you from achieving your dreams. Fear does not give you the courage to direct all energy into finishing the only work that mattered to you. The fear of loss caused you to freeze into a mode of in action thereby putting your dreams on hold — perpetually.
Had I refused to take Risk back then because of fear, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the arena I truly belonged—business. When I let go of my fear and took the Risk of quitting College for a business opportunity in Liberia, I was set free mentally, and full of courage and zeal to build my life as a successful businessman.
By taking Risk, I learned about things that I might have not learned. It made me discover my personality—that I had a strong business mind and skill than I had suspected. Risk also make you to emerge wiser and stronger and allows you to be truly satisfied since you are following your heart, and doing what you love to do.
We all have goals and have fears, but how you handle those fears will determine how quickly you reach your goals. Not every Risk ends up as a success—when it is not successful, learn from the mistakes made, and take the necessary remedial actions through your next moves.
You will never truly know yourself, and the strength of your ability, until you take Risk. Such knowledge is a true gift that is painfully gained, but worth the experience. Remember, the people you admire today for their successes took Risk to get to where they are, so do not be afraid to be fearless Risk takers.
Having discussed at great length, using my own life experience, to establish the co-relation between Risk Taking and becoming successful in one’s chosen career or professional occupation, permit me to acquaint you with what some great men of thought, leadership, business, innovation, science, technology and industry had to say about the overarching and all-important issues of Risk and success.
Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman, CEO, and Co-founder of Facebook had this to say – “The biggest risk is not taking any risk”
For his part, Arianna Huffington, Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post postulated that: “If you are not in touch with your intuition, you cannot be successful. Data is great. But sometimes, even when you have all the data in the world, if you do not follow your gut, you won’t discover the true potential and be able to recognize critical opportunities”.
Now, we move on to
The Issue of Imagination
To take Risk, you must follow imagination. You cannot take Risk just because you want to do so. It must be backed by imagination. In my case, I had an imagination of becoming a business tycoon, and I took the Risk to implement such.
Your intelligence and your education give you unique status and responsibilities. However, it is imagination that will set many of you here apart. Imagination is the greatest gift of mankind, so do not disregard it and behave like many who do not exercise it at all. There are many University graduates like you—smart and intelligent—but they are nowhere in the society because they choose to remain comfortably within their bounds, and not trouble about how it would feel to have been born other than they are.
They strangulate their imaginations and close their minds and hearts from exercising it. They do not realize that in imaginations, we carry all the power to change the world and our lives. The power of being successful. If you are not living your imagination, you are not living. It is up to you to take the step and identify what works best for you and what does not, then adjust accordingly. At the end of the day, as you open your hearts to your imaginations, and work assiduously to implement them, you will succeed.
No one wants to be a failure. However, to be successful, you have to take Risks and follow your imaginations. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jack Ma, Mark Zuckerberg, Aliko Dangote and many more successful people, did not close their hearts to their imaginations, they followed it. Instead of being trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking, they follow their dream, and never let the noise of others’ opinions drown out on their own inner voices, hearts, and intuitions.
So as you follow your imaginations, you are going to find naysayers in every turn that you make. Do not listen. Trust yourself. Know exactly where you want to go. Get out there and work like hell and never ever be afraid of failure. You can overcome all odds to achieve your imaginations as long as you set your heart and mind to it. There is no such thing as cannot be done. If you really want to achieve your imagination, it will be yours for the taking. For there is truly little learning in success, but it is in failure, we learn lessons of Life.
Dear graduates, Do not allow anything deter you from taking the first steps towards your imaginations. In addition, do not spend so much time trying to choose the perfect opportunity, that you miss the right opportunity. Know that there will be failures and obstacles but this should not be a reason why you will not want to follow your imaginations.
On the question of imagination, one of Germany’s greatest physicists, Albert Einstein, appeared to have validated the sanctity of Imagination to success when he remarked that: “I am enough of an Artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world”.
Einstein, on another occasion postulated that: “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
Similarly, this is what the famous Japanese Artist Hiroko Sakai had to say about imagination: “If we have received a precious gift from God, it is our imagination. When we tap into our powers of imagination, we are bombs of possibilities.”
Pay attention to your imagination and find a way to create your journey. Do not fall into the trap of analysis paralysis, because otherwise, you will just be living a life of regret. Your imaginations put you on a journey of exploration and self-discovery: The decisions you make starting today will determine what you become. You will face many challenges, but this is what the “world” is all about.
I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine; remember that your country depends on you to shape its future for the good. To do so, you will have to take reasonable risks and use your imaginations.
Try to keep out of trouble; however, if you are faced with a challenge—you have already been taught to become problem solvers. To the parents, trust your child. It is not good to underestimate their ability to deal with issues.
Ladies and gentlemen, may we stand up for a minute together to applaud the Graduates for their success. They are awesome people, smart, achievers, motivators, and innovators from diverse backgrounds. For I see in these graduates, future Managers, Administrators, Business Tycoons, Diplomats, Lawyers, Accountants, Economists, Doctors, Scientists, Legislators, and even a President of this Republic.
Finally, may I once again, thank the University family for the Invitation, and wish all the Graduates all the best in their future endeavors. To the Teaching Staff, keep up your excellent work in helping shape the minds of future leaders.
Thank you and wish you all the best! Cheers to a new day in your life!