Spring commencement speakers encourage graduates to live the Auburn Creed

Published: May 10, 2016
Updated: March 13, 2017
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Auburn University's commencement speakers referred to the Auburn Creed as they spoke to the newest group of Auburn alumni. Twitter executive Chris Moody spoke to graduates at the ceremonies held May 7, while Retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III spoke at the ceremonies on May 8. Moody is an alumnus of Auburn's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, where he studied mechanical engineering. Austin earned his master's degree in counselor education from Auburn's College of Education.

Moody emphasizes hard work and kindness

Work hard and be kind – those are the messages commencement speaker Chris Moody wanted to leave with Auburn University's class of 2016.

Moody is vice president of data strategy for Twitter.

"You guys are no strangers to hard work," Moody said. "You chose a university that has the words, 'I believe in work, hard work' right in the Creed."

He acknowledged that the idea of hard work is getting a bad reputation, but encouraged graduates to remember that working hard and putting forth effort will lead to success.

"The difference between good and great is just effort. Ideas on their own have no power. Ideas only gain power if individuals are willing to take up the effort and make them a reality," he said.

In preparing the graduates for life after college, Moody charged them not to shy away when someone tells them something is "too hard."

"When people say that to you, more times than not, they are pointing you right at an opportunity to go out and make a difference," he said.

Moody's second ingredient for success is kindness, which he explained using the chaos theory – a branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems, whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions.

"Small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences," he explained. "In my observation, there is no better example of the chaos theory than kindness."

Moody shared the story of how acts of kindness in the '50s, well before he was born, shaped his journey to Auburn University. His parents were visiting engineering schools and had mostly settled on another college, but on a whim decided to visit Auburn. They were impressed by the kindness they were shown by complete strangers and decided to enroll in Auburn.

"My parents began to fall in love with Auburn that day, and when I was born they passed that love onto me," he said. "It is so true, small alterations around kindness can have such a great impact."

He reminded the class of 2016 to always focus on kindness, even when it's not the easiest path.
"In our rush to meet our goals, we sometimes feel like we need to take a short cut when it comes to other people's perspectives or feelings and those shortcuts can sometimes feel like the opposite of kindness. The reality is being kind can sometimes be the hardest work of all," he said.

Moody said he relies daily on words from the Dalai Lama: "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." He encouraged graduates to keep those words in mind as they go throughout their careers and their lives.

"There is just no place for hate of exclusion, but there is a huge opportunity for you, the 2016 graduates of Auburn University. You can all go out in the world and deliver atomic levels of chaos by taking the kindness that is so core to being part of the Auburn Family and extending it to every person you meet from here on out."

Austin points to teamwork and humility as drivers of success

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III challenged graduates at Auburn University's commencement ceremonies to go out and make history. He said he was optimistic for the class of 2016, reminding them of the successes of the Auburn alumni who came before them.

"Former students and graduates of Auburn University have won Grammys and Oscars, they have served the United States Congress, they have headed multimillion dollar corporations, they have designed lifesaving technology, they've been to space and to war, they've earned the Medal of Honor, they've won the Super Bowl, World Series, Olympic medals, Wimbledon, the Heisman Trophy and the list goes on and on. "

Austin, who retired at the beginning of May having served most recently as commander of U.S. Central Command, offered several pieces of advice on how Auburn's most recent graduates could be successful and make history.

"My counsel is to stay true to your values, work hard, be disciplined, be your own drill sergeant, strive to be the best at whatever you do, whatever you choose to do in life, and be willing to do the necessary reps and sets to master your craft. At the same time, pursue your passions and broaden your horizons and never stop learning. Find ways to serve others and perhaps serve your country in some capacity. Strive to make a positive difference in your communities, the communities that you will no doubt add a great deal of effort to and value to in the future," he said.

Austin reminded the graduates that the most successful people in life are those who are not concerned simply with individual success.

"[The most successful people] are motivated by the organization's success and the accomplishment of a mission," he said. "So my advice to you is to always seek to be a team player. Recognize that in the end you will be successful because the teams that you support are successful."

On the way to success, Austin said, humility is equally important.

"Humility enables you to recognize your strengths as well as your weaknesses. It also enables you to continue to grow and to learn and to make a difference in the lives of others," he said.
He also spoke of the importance of continuing to learn – and encouraged the class of 2016 to not let their degrees be the end of their learning.

"That's one of the things I committed to early on in my career – to be a lifelong learner. I would encourage all of you to commit yourselves to being lifelong learners. And don't limit yourself. Seek to learn about a lot of different things and be willing to take some risks and wander outside of your comfort zones every now and then," he said.

Austin said the most important piece of advice he had to offer is to stay true to oneself.

"Never, ever compromise your values. The one thing that will have the greatest influence on your life is the strength of your character, and the character of every individual is a reflection of his or her values," Austin said. "Strong values are the cornerstone of the Auburn Creed – indeed they are the bedrock on which this great institution was built."

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