About the Speaker:
D.G. Martin, will be the commencement speaker at each ceremony. Martin, the host of "North Carolina Bookwatch" on UNC-TV and the author of a weekly newspaper column, "One on One," is a retired lawyer, politician and university administrator. A native of Davidson , Martin attended Davidson College, where his father served as president. While there, he played basketball for former Davidson coach Lefty Driesell. After graduating, he was commissioned in the U.S. Army and served in its Special Forces. After leaving active military duty, Martin went on to graduate from Yale Law School and practiced law in Charlotte.
Martin has been involved with politics and public service throughout most of his life. He has served as interim Vice Chancellor for Development and University Affairs at both UNC-Pembroke and North Carolina Central University, and has served as the Carolinas Director of the Trust for Public Land. He is also remembered for his 1998 campaign against John Edwards for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate.
D. G. Martin, Speaker
LISTEN, WAIT, LISTEN, WAIT, LISTEN
Thank you. President Oxendine and President Turner, distinguished guests, families and graduates.
Thanks to all of you for sharing your graduation experience with me and for making me feel so welcome.
It is good to be back in Salisbury. When I was growing up down the road in Davidson, we came to this big town to shop or to catch the train going north.
Good graduation speeches should praise you, the graduates, your parents, faculty, and also give good advice about your upcoming life's journey.
Will you forgive me if I skip most of that stuff?
As for advice and wisdom, you can't get any better than you've already gotten from folks here at Catawba:
For instance, Professor Andy Vance, speaking at his retirement said, "Try to remember that everyone has to find and follow his own path."
Or retired Professor Patricia Whitley: "Be loyal to who you work for and be positive."
Or, President Turner, in 2009: "First: Be a person of Hope. Second: Be a person of Faith. Third: Be a person who Loves."
Or, President Oxendine, at the recent Awards Convocation: "show off, brag modestly, throw your chest out, and feel good."
What better words could there be for you at this moment?
I can't do better.
But I am going to try to share quickly two suggestions for you to consider.
First, right now, let's stop for just a minute. Think about this beautiful campus. Your relationship with Catawba changes today, but it doesn't end. This place will always be where you went to college.
Here is what I want you to remember: The better Catawba is and the better it gets in the future, the better it is and will be for you. The better it is, the better people will think of you as the holder of a Catawba degree.
So when you help make Catawba better, it lifts you up, too.
Give back, not just with your money, but also be a cheerleader and a volunteer. Spread the word. Recruit good students. And come back, for athletics and other events — and just to walk the grounds.
Years from now, when your family is scattered and the home where you grew up is gone and you live somewhere else, Catawba will still be here for you, like it is today, ready to help bring back the "old times."
Remember this when you need it. Come back here. Come home. And help Catawba.
That is advice number one.
Before I give number two, go back in time with me to 1956 to the trains and the Salisbury station. I had just gotten my driver's license and my father had asked me to drive him and his best friend and fellow college official, Sam Spencer, from Davidson to Salisbury, where they would catch the train to New York to call on potential donors.
I remember driving the winding roads in the dark, waiting for the train in the Salisbury station, and then watching those two distinguished men, who were dressed up in the style of the 50s. They could have been on the TV show Madmen as they boarded the train.
Two years later, both of them were college presidents — my dad at Davidson and Dr. Spencer at Mary Baldwin.
For a short while it was a wonderful time.
Then, just about 15 years later, I was back at the Salisbury Station having taken the train from Charlotte during the time of the great gas shortage.
I was coming to Salisbury to visit my father in the Veterans Administration hospital here. Dr. Spencer was now president of Davidson, taking my father's place because, at the age of 57, he had to step down when he learned that he had early onset Alzheimer's disease.
So I was in Salisbury to see my father — for one of the last times before his death. He was already lost to us — that dread disease cutting short way-too-early his career of service — and taking away from me a fountain of experience, advice, and wisdom that would have been available for me.
After dad's death, my mother became a soldier in the Alzheimer's movement, organizing support groups and sharing her story so as to give the families of other victims the courage and resources to cope with their challenges.
Later on my son, in honor of my mother, volunteered at one of the Alzheimer's activities and, while working, met his future wife.
My son's happy marriage and my beautiful granddaughter would not be, if it had not been for my dad's tragic illness.
This is the story our family tells each other when we ask "why was my good dad struck down?"
I don't pretend it is a full or complete answer, but it is hard to argue with the great blessing that came out of the tragedy.
Still, I miss my father and the wise counsel he would have given me had he lived longer, and if I had asked for it.
This gets us to us to my second suggestion for how to make your life better.
Do this as early as tomorrow — if you can.
Take your dad or your mom or, if your parents are gone, take one senior member of your family, to lunch. You pay, of course. You are a college graduate and, as of today, your relationship with your parents is different — whether you like it or not! You have broken away and earned your spurs — even if, due to the economy, you're back in your parents' house temporarily — just for a little while.
Take your mom or your dad to a quiet place — just the two of you. Take a pen and notebook. Express thanks and then ask for a description of life's lessons learned and for advice and suggestions that might be helpful to you as you begin this new phase of your life.
Then listen, take notes, don't interrupt, don't argue, don't talk at all, except to say "what else?"
Just listen, wait, listen, wait, listen.
What you will hear and remember tomorrow will be more meaningful, more useful than any advice any graduation speaker could ever give you.