Debt Consolidation

Ross Perot's Talk to Port Huron Northern High School Graduates

Posted on: June 04, 2008
Written by: UWSA Staff

Date: 14 Jun 1995 19:33:56 GMT
From: csmith
Subject: Ross Perot Address on 6/07/95
Following is the transcript of the TERRIFIC speech by Ross Perot addressing Port Huron Northern High School grads:

JUNE 7, 1995

INTRODUCTION: ... Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct privilege and pleasure to introduce the gentleman that has had the greatest impact on the American political agenda during the 1990's, Mr. Ross Perot.

Mr. Perot.

MR. PEROT: Thank you very much.

Congratulations to all you graduates. It's a privilege to be with you on this special day.

I am here tonight because I was invited by the parents of Nicole Helwig to honor her memory at your graduation. I know that they would want me to also include Michael Tandren and Paul Stoliger. As you celebrate this great night, remember your three friends.

In Nicole's father's words, "She is in heaven. Heaven is a little richer and we are a little poorer." All three are looking down on this graduation ceremony tonight from heaven. All three, I promise you, are smiling. Please keep them in your thoughts on this special night.

First tonight, I'd like to address the teachers who taught you. With their talents, they could have pursued many different and much more financially rewarding careers. They chose to dedicate their lives to molding tomorrow's leaders. They will make a difference in what our country and the world will be like 30 years from now. What they are doing is much more important and much more valuable than what they could have done with their talents. I ask every single graduate tonight, as a high priority and part of your celebration, to seek out your teachers and thank them.

Next, I'd like to talk to the graduates whose parents had to work and sacrifice so that you could finish high school. This is a great day for you. It's difficult for you to understand how much this day means to your parents. In the euphoria of this great day, take the time to sit down with them, let your parents know how much you appreciate their sacrifices and how much you love them. Talk is cheap, and that's just talk. But it's important tonight.

But here's what's really important. Go out and spend the rest of your life showing them that their sacrifices were a great investment. Don't ever do anything that would break their hearts. When you're getting ready to do something stupid, think for a minute and say, how would my mom and dad react to this? Maybe that will clear your head.

Next, I'd like to talk to the graduates who are the first in their families to ever graduate from high school and there must be a few here tonight. My father had to drop out of school when he was 14. He was a whole lot smarter than I am. He never had the opportunities I had. He had to work as a Texas cowboy because his dad died.

My mother was able to finish high school but could not afford to go to college. Their dream, like your parents, was to have their children finish high school and be able to go to college. Your parents have that dream for you. They have worked and sacrificed and, please, remember tonight that, through you, they are realizing their dream. They never got to do it, but seeing you here tonight is one of the great moments of their lives. Be sure you give them special thanks tonight. Let them know how much you love them and give them big hugs when this is over. Certainly you have a special obligation to do something important because you have the chance that they never did have. If you do that, all their sacrifices will be worthwhile. I know you will.

Now, I want to talk to the most brilliant students in the graduating class, those of you who have received the highest academic honors and have all the options in the world available to you. The reason I want to talk to you is because I'm kind of worried about you. Here's why. Don't be cocky. Don't be arrogant. Be humble. Your mind is so good. Keep in mind that to do as well as you have done academically -- I know you've worked hard -- but you also have a genetic gift. You have a wonderful brain. It is like a perfectly wired stereo system that has no static. If you never hear any static, you don't think anybody hears static, right? If you can scan a page of complex scientific material and have it in your mind and read it back word for word from memory, you say, well, can't everybody do that? No, no. That's a gift. That's a gift.

Most of us, unlike you, have static in our heads. Your minds can go places our minds can't go and do things our minds can never do. But there's a minus to this. When it's that easy, one of the oldest lessons of history is that success breeds arrogance and complacency. Over the years, I've worked with thousands of young people. Here's why I'm worried about you. Again and again I've seen the average students beat the best and brightest. That shouldn't happen. The best and brightest many times can just sort of freewheel, scan it once, make A+ and move on. My challenge to you since you have this gift, and what better place to bring it up than right here in Port Huron where Edison grew up, use your gift like he did to change the world. For the rest of your lives, I hope that, every time you land at night over a city and you look down and see those lights, you think of Thomas Edison and you realize what one person can do. Please don't think that day has gone by. I'll give you some examples right now of individuals who are having an impact on the world like Thomas Edison did a long time ago.

My primary concern is that you haven't had to sweat in order to achieve things. That you're not intellectually tough and that you don't know what it is not to finish first, that you don't know what it is to strive, fail, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again and again, and, finally, never win a medal but just finish the race.

The people who have to do that, interestingly enough, develop an advantage over you. They are used to disappointment. They have learned to recover from defeat. They have learned to persevere. I challenge you to use your unique gifts to make the world a better place.

Now, for whatever it's worth to you, in my business career, when we get somebody as talented as the people at the top of this class, many of them have Masters Degrees that have never been challenged. Step 1, we put them in water way over their head and just see how far they can swim and, boy oh boy, do they love it. Because, in many cases, they have come from our finest schools, but they don't know what it is to have to reach down deep inside and get that last little bit out. But when they see it and taste it, they want it for the rest of their lives and then they do go on to change the world.

Now, I want to talk to those in this class -- and there must be a few, who had to struggle to get through high school. Okay. There's one. I'm not going to worry about you because adversity breeds strength. History teaches us that. You're going to do all right. Some of you had to read the same lesson five times. You had to underline it when you read it. Then you had to outline it and, finally, you had to memorize it in order to pass the test. On top of that, you had to seek extra help from your friends and teachers. But, see, what you're building here is, whatever it takes, you get it done. It gives you an interesting advantage. Don't ever think you are dumb. You're building a big advantage. You've learned a priceless lesson and if I could give one vaccine to every graduate here tonight it would be one that says, persevere, persevere, persevere. The people that have to struggle, learn to persevere. They don't quit. They don't give up. They expect life to be hard. They expect to pay a price for everything they do. You'd be amazed at the advantage you have because of this.

I've had the good fortune in my life to meet people that you might identify as the most successful people in the world. In nearly every case, they're average. Isn't that interesting? They're average. In nearly every case, their roaring success, which is all you ever see, is built squarely on the rubble of many failures, disappointments and mistakes. They learned from their mistakes and went on to victory. There's no better example I can give you than Thomas Edison's development of the electric light. Study that and you'll realize here's a guy that didn't quit. He tried everything, even going to South America trying to get fibers off a bush. But he finally got it, right? And the rest is history.

You say, well, where did he start? Selling newspapers down there at the train station when he was 12. Isn't that interesting? His teachers thought he was dumb. The rest is history.

Tonight, never forget you're the luckiest people in the world because you're in this country. That somewhere, right now, off the coast of Vietnam, there's a young person brighter and smarter than anybody in this class, in a boat trying to reach freedom which you and I take for granted. Somewhere on the streets of India, there's a young person starving to death, brighter than anybody who will graduate here tonight. Working third shift in this country are people who never had the opportunities you've had, who are brighter than anyone here tonight. Let me give you one example of a man here from Michigan.

When I was on the board of General Motors, I met a man named Don Effland. He was a factory worker. He was nearing retirement. He was accepted at MIT as a young man because he was so bright but he could not afford to go. Then he was accepted at West Point because he was so talented, and he failed the eye exam. I was accepted to the Naval Academy and passed the eye exam. That's the difference between Don Effland and myself. Don Effland is far smarter than I. I would never have been accepted at MIT. I'm not being modest. I passed the eye exam. Lucky breaks have a lot to do with what happens in your life. He spent his life on the factory floor. One day, he was allowed to speak to the Board of Directors, the only factory worker in the history of General Motors that had ever spoken to the Board of Directors. It was an incredible speech. After his speech, I asked him if he would mind if I just took his speech one night, gave it to a group of business executives as my own speech and, after they gave me a strong positive reaction to it, I would tell them whose speech it was. He laughed and said, sure.

I spoke to a "Who's Who of Corporate America" in New York. I read Don Effland's speech. I got a standing ovation. When I told them who wrote the speech, some of them almost fainted. Now, just as a family has its zigs and zags, Don Effland is now retired and guess what he does? He lectures at MIT, the school he couldn't afford to go to as a young man.

All I'm trying to say is, if the ball bounces the right way in your life, don't get cocky, consider yourself lucky. When you see people in distress, never look down on them. Help them and say to yourself, always, there but by the grace of God, go I. So, whatever it's worth, the people who make it the long pull, keenly understand their weaknesses and their strengths, they don't feel arrogant, cocky or special, they feel lucky.

I had a friend who was severely disabled. Lived in an iron lung for ten years. Wouldn't quit, got out of the iron lung, made money every year he was in the iron lung. Lived a full, rich life and just died a few months ago. Do you know what his philosophy was? I'd love for you to have it. It said, your heart only has a given capacity like a water pitcher. Fill it with love. Don't leave any room for anguish, hate or tension. I think if you do that, that will have a wonderful impact on your life. Just keep your life and your heart filled with love and concern for other people. Be a giver, not a taker. When people are selfish, society doesn't work. We've gone through a period of selfishness and greed that has dug a deep hole for your generation. You ask, are we going to have to fill it? A simple answer is yes, because the hole is there. Be a giver, not a taker, all your life.

Everything you've learned as children is right. Help other people at all times. Do a good turn daily.

Most of the young men in the audience here tonight who were in Boy Scouts are saying, wait a minute, Ross. I learned that in scouting. Fine. If you'll practice it throughout your life, society and the world will be a whole lot better. If you spend your life looking after number one, it won't. The best way to be successful is create opportunities for other people.

What is success? Being the best at whatever you do. We live in a tiny world, you've got to be the best in the world. There's no red ribbon for second place once you get out in the business world. You have to be the best. So, are you just talking about business? No. If you decide to be a minister, be the best. If you decide to be a doctor, or teacher, or social worker, be the best. Then you'll make a difference. Only if you're driven to be the best will you make a difference. I had a philosophy in my company. I said, I don't care who you are, where you're from, where you went to school or if you went to school, I'm interested in what you can do and what you've done lately. I used to tell the recruiters, I said, bring me people who have a history of success since childhood. Bring me people who love to win. Most of my recruiters were kind of characters. One of them raised his head and said, Ross, what if we run out of people who love to win? I said, then find people who hate to lose.

The Wright Brothers were bicycle repairmen from Dayton, Ohio. They had no business teaching the world to fly but they were driven to do it and they beat Dr. Langley who had the degrees, the credentials and the government grant.

Thomas Edison certainly had no business creating all of his inventions but he did it. I know you're saying, Ross, that was yesterday. Is that still possible?

Steve Jobs -- so bright, he attended engineering classes at Stanford while he was in high school, but so poor he could not afford to go to college. He created the home computer. IBM should have done that. Some giant corporation should have done that. One young man without a college education did it and totally changed the world in terms of information. He brought information to everyone.

But, if you come to my office, hanging on the wall is a letter written by Thomas Edison in 1924. Steve Jobs loves this letter. Thomas Edison had the home computer in his head in 1924. He called it the home teaching machine. He didn't have integrated circuits. He didn't have vacuum tubes. All he had was switches and relays. He couldn't create it but he had it in his head. Finally, if you need another contemporary one, Bill Gates didn't finish college. He was driven to start Microsoft and the rest is history. One of the most successful companies in the world.

Don't measure success by how much money you make, please. In many cases -- now, keep in mind, I know most of the people who have made a lot of money. In many cases, their personal lives and their children are a mess. So, if making money is your goal, back and think it through again. Happiness and financial success are absolutely unrelated.

For example, Margot and I are not one bit happier today than we were when we drove into Dallas with everything we owned in the back of a second-hand Plymouth when we got out of the Navy. Our riches are our five children. Never, ever forget that.

The best story I've ever heard that covers it was a rich lady going to the opera one night with her jewelry, her pearls, and her fur. Coming toward her was a poor lady dressed very humbly holding two little children, one in each hand. As they came together, the rich lady drew herself proudly up and said, "And, Madam, where are your pearls?" The poor lady pointed to her children and said, "These are my pearls." You are your parent's pearls. Your children will be your pearls. They will be 1,000 times more important to you than anything you ever do personally.

I understand most of you are going to college. You won't be looking for jobs for a few years. So I'm going to skip that tonight and maybe I'll talk to you when you graduate from college. When you're out looking for work, that's another time.

Many of you will be leaders, have been leaders, and I have a little bit of advice for you. Lead and inspire people. Don't try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead. Unfortunately, few colleges and universities teach leadership. Most of our great business schools don't teach leadership. Here are the characteristics of a successful leader.

You must earn the trust and respect of the people who work with you. Notice I say with you. If you've got people working for you, you're in trouble. If they're working with you, you're in the right direction. They've got to trust and respect you and you've got to re-earn that multiple times every day. How do you do that? Be candid. Be honest. Live in the center of the field of ethical behavior at a time in our country when everything you see on television is cute tricks running down the sideline. Never ask yourself, is it legal or illegal? Simply ask yourself as a leader, is it right or wrong. If it's wrong, don't do it. You keep life pretty simple that way.

If you say, "I'm really busy, Ross, just give me a one-liner on leadership." Treat other people the way you would like to be treated. That's just the Golden Rule. It works. If it works, stick with it. Treat other people the way you'd like to be treated. It has worked for thousands of years.

There's an interesting phenomena. Everything changes in the world but human nature. Human nature doesn't change much. If you say, "well, I don't have to treat people the way I'd like to be treated, I'm the boss." Yes. But that young person working for you is a human being just like you. You say, "well, this is a person that didn't even finish high school. This is a person on the loading dock. I'm a big shot in the corner office." But inside that little nobody is something that's just like what's inside you that says, "I am unique. I am special. There's only one person in the world like me. Treat me with dignity and respect." If you do that from everybody from the loading dock to the big shots in the corner office, that's leadership. Let's assume the little guy on the loading dock gets sick. Give him more attention than you would a corporate vice president. He needs your help, right? A corporate vice president can go hire any doctor he wants. The real challenge is to unleash the creativity of all the people around you. If you treat them with dignity and respect, you tap their full potential.

Finally, in leadership, learn the hardest and simplest lesson of all. Listen, listen, listen, to the people who do the work on the front lines. They're with the customer. They'll have the answers that make your company successful.

So life is very interesting. There's one thing I've got to cover with you. We've got a great country. We've got 5% of the world's population. We've got 50% of the drug use. Statistically, in a group this size, somebody could be tinkering with that stuff. If anybody is using it, my blunt advice to you, as someone who really cares about you, is cut it out. If you've never touched it, no matter what the circumstances are, don't ever try it. Do you know how hard it is to give up ice cream? Do you know how hard it is to give up cold drinks? Those are not addictive. Once this stuff grabs you -- and I've spent a lot of time on this -- it's tough to turn it loose because it's physically addictive. It's devastating to you and it will devastate your children and change them genetically when they're born. If you question that, just go down to the emergency room or the neonatal room where the babies are born, in any big charity hospital in any big city. The typical baby born of a drug-using mother is in the hospital 42 days and costs them $125,000 because of the genetic damage. Don't ever take that risk.

If you question that, you can read the medical literature. But the easy thing to do is just go down there and look in the neonatal hospitals in big cities. All down the East Coast they are at 125% capacity. Typically, the mother disappears after the third day and the child becomes a ward of the state. Does that have anything to do with being a great country? Does that have anything to do with being a responsible citizen? No. Don't ever even tinker with that stuff. When you even try drugs, you violate the first rule of war. The first rule of war is, don't shoot yourself. So when somebody runs this by you on a Saturday night on a college campus, you say, well, the first rule of war, I don't think I want to shoot myself. Don't touch it, even though it's trendy in some places.

Finally, in a world where people just tiptoe around life, live it to the fullest. Live it with zest. Have fun every day and if you're not, say wait a minute. Why am I not out there really having fun all day every day in my life? Be a person who does things. You say, oh, I'm going to identify all the polluted rivers in the world. I'll do a wonderful job. Hey, no, you don't even need to finish high school for that. You need to have a good nose. You can smell it. Be the person that cleaned up those rivers, right? Oh, that takes hard work. You bet. Anybody can identify the problem. Be the problem-solver.

In the words of Lech Walenza to our Congress, he said, "Words are plentiful but deeds are precious." Now, in our country right now, if we had a pothole in the streets of a lot of our cities, we'd have a press conference on pot holes. What we need in your generation is just get hot asphalt, get a shovel, fill the pot hole, move on to the next one, skip the press conference. Right? That's action, not talk.

Always stand on principal. Don't worry about getting a broken nose. Fight for what you believe in even if it's unpopular. Don't worry about how things look and focus on how things really are. Do the right thing. Take the heat. Ignore the imagery and spin control that dominate our society today. When you foul up, just step up to the plate and say, I did it. That would be a refreshing change, right? Keep in mind your mistakes are painful for you but they're like skinned knees in little children. They're painful, their superficial, they heal quickly and there's no better way to learn than from your honest mistakes. You've got to be involved. You've got to be in the ring.

Teddy Roosevelt said it better than anybody I know when he said, "It's not the critic who counts. It is not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."

Fail while daring greatly and you will have a much better chance of making this world a better place.

As you leave tonight, please thank your teachers, thank your parents. Make sure your parents know how much you love them for all they've done for you. Wake up grinning every morning. Make each day better than the day before. Be results-oriented. Solve problems. Never get discouraged. Keep that heart filled with love and remember Churchill's shortest speech ever, and here's the whole speech. "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never."

Nicole, God bless you. If Nicole were here tonight, she would urge you to live the words I'm about to read. They sum up everything I've said tonight. Live your life this way. A bell is no bell -- now keep in mind, we've got a bell -- 'til you ring it. All the songs in the world are no songs, 'til you sing it. More importantly than anything else, love in your heart isn't put there to stay. Love isn't love 'til you give it away.

May God bless you all on this special day.