Purdue President Mitch Daniels: ‘Tune Out Anyone Who Tries to Tell You Your Achievements Are Not Your Own’

Frederick Douglass, Thomas Edison, George Washington

Purdue University president Mitch Daniels warned graduates at the school’s commencement that they should not fall prey to the “pernicious” notion that their successes will be based on luck or the actions of others.

Daniels – the former governor of Indiana – asserted:

Among many pernicious notions of our time, perhaps the most dangerous is the idea, sometimes implied and sometimes expressed, that life is more or less a lottery. That we are less masters of our fate than corks floating in a sea of luck. Or, even more absurd, that most of us are victims of some kind, and therefore in desperate need of others to protect us against a world of predators and against our own gullibility.

I hope you will tune out anyone who, from this day on, tries to tell you that your achievements are not your own.

Daniels observed the thoughtful comment of inventor Thomas Edison, who said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” He also noted the lesson of freedom activist Frederick Douglass, who taught, “We may explain success mainly by one word and that word is work … enduring, honest, unremitting, indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put.”

Similarly, Daniels said, movie innovator Samuel Goldwyn remarked, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Purdue’s president continued:

I have started drawing particular attention to a few words in the conferral language we are about to recite. They refer to the “rights, privileges, duties, and responsibilities” of your new degrees. I cite them because today’s world abounds in people who are quick to demand what they claim are their rights and privileges without recognizing any concomitant duties and responsibilities.

“The history of this university is one of people who came from modest circumstances, accepted the responsibility to work hard and went on, through good luck and bad, to achieve great things and to be great citizens,” Daniels said. “Who accepted the duty to lead others in lives of similar character. Who knew, with George Washington, that “We cannot ensure success, but we can deserve it.”


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