WIU grads encouraged to believe in themselves, do the right thing

MACOMB — Western Illinois graduates on Saturday heard two motivating messages which encouraged them to believe in themselves, and to always do what is right.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” This was the message delivered by President Jack Thomas to Western Illinois University graduates during the commencement address at Western Hall Saturday afternoon.
Thomas delivered the address, which included a number of quotes from notable authors and speakers including Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ghandi among others, just prior to the presentation of an honorary doctorate to WIU alumnus James Shipp, who graduated Western in 1964.
About a half hour before the 1 p.m. ceremony, families and friends of graduates entered Western Hall from the rainy outdoors, carrying umbrellas and finding spaces to sit in the bleachers. Meanwhile, graduating students in purple robes clustered in the space behind the band and lined up by signs noting their academic departments. Once the ceremony began, marshals in white robes led the them down purple carpet aisles to their seats on the main floor, where they waited to be called to cross the stage.
During his address, Thomas encouraged students to “live with a sense of urgency and purpose,” and echoed King’s and President Roosevelt’s “strident call to not allow opportunities in life to pass you by.”
“Graduates, you are about to commence to a new phase of your life,” he said, “and with this transition comes increased responsibility… I challenge each one of you to live by the motto, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’ Because you are about to embark on a new pathway of your journey through life.”
He also urged them not to let fear hold them back, and not to let short-term pleasures in life or complacency overshadow the value of hard work and commitment. “Graduates, your tomorrow is today. Some of you may be fearful about what the future holds. Do not be fearful of this new phase in your life. Do not procrastinate. And do not let opportunities pass you by…. No one knows the future, but we can be ready for it by preparing today.”
Shipp was then awarded after Thomas’s message with the WIU Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in recognition of his career contributions and support of WIU over the years. Shipp, a successful entrepreneur in retirement, was a record-setting wrestler during his time as a student at WIU. His athletic endeavors earned him a spot in the WIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
His message to graduates was optimistic, and affirmed the value of students’ abilities to make their own decisions as they moved forward in life.
He began by sharing a bit of his experience, saying that he entered Western as a teen without much understanding of “what life was all about, or how I was going to make it in the world. I left Western in 1964 as a young man with a lot of enthusiasm and ideas, and ready for the world. And so are you.”
“You are as prepared as anybody in the world that you’re going to meet with… All you need to do is understand that you are as capable and even more capable than they are. So believe in yourself,” he said.
He continued. “Believe in yourself. Opportunities are going to come your way, and you’ll have to decide which of those you’re going to take. You’re going to have some advice from friends, family and others. And they’re going to tell you what they think, which is based on their experience – not yours.”
“Your experience gives you the opportunity to make the decision for yourself, so believe in yourself. No one’s judgment is better about you than yours.”
“…Your experience is the foundation for all your development. It sets your moral compass, you know what’s right, you know what’s wrong. You’ve learned it from your family,” he said. “As a result, you know the things that work well and where you need to make changes. Don’t be afraid to make a decision and then realize it’s not the best decision for you and change it. That’s okay. That happens all the time. All you have to do is continue to believe in yourself.”

Reach Michelle Langhout by email at mlanghout@mcdonoughvoice.com or find her on Facebook.