Enjoy happiness, speaker urges YSU grads

The student speaker
encouraged graduates to savor each moment along the way to realizing their dreams.



YOUNGSTOWN — Quoting Kermit the Frog might not seem like a typical thing to do when addressing a group of college graduates, but Chad Miller made it work.

It was just part of a speech that Miller, who graduated Sunday from Youngstown State University, admitted was just a little outside the ordinary. Miller, of Poland, was the student speaker during Sunday’s graduation ceremony at Beeghly Center.

While graduation speeches are often chock full of the usual admonitions for grads to pursue their dreams with all their might, Miller advised his fellow graduates to pull back the reins on the dream-chasing. Pursuing goals and dreams is important, but not if you become blinded to life’s smaller, less-spectactular moments and experiences along the way, he said.

An honors graduate and a former president of YSU’s Student Government Association, Miller said people too often get caught up in the pursuit of money, fame or a lucrative job, believing that those things, once achieved, will bring about happiness.

“But then we tend to not even give ourselves a chance to enjoy the happiness we’ve achieved before we’re off chasing another goal,” Miller said. “There’s always another what-if. It’s natural. It’s human to keep trying.”

To illustrate his point, Miller cited the opening lines of Kermit the Frog’s song, “Rainbow Connection,” which asks, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows? And what’s on the other side?”

The song, he said, seems to be an observation about humanity’s fascination with chasing rainbows and curiosity about the pot of gold at the end.

Miller, who graduated summa cum laude, said it is important to set and pursue goals and dreams, but cautioned against making those pursuits the sole focus of life. Instead, true happiness should come through living in the moment and with contentment, he said.

To that end, he suggested that his fellow graduates volunteer their services to charitable organizations because “volunteering makes people appreciate what they have.”

YSU President Dr. David Sweet said Miller maintained a 4.0 grade-point average while fulfilling more than 60 hours of community service each year.

“He has been a major campus leader,” Sweet said.

Miller also suggested that his colleagues practice moderation and “don’t compare yourself to people who you feel are better than you” because it can only lead to disappointment.

“Learn to appreciate life. Don’t miss it,” Miller said. “Not what it will be, not what it was, not what it could be, but what it is.”

Miller received a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and psychology. He intends to pursue a graduate degree at YSU and ultimately pursue a career in medicine.

The keynote speaker Sunday was Chad P. Wick of Cincinnati, president and chief executive officer of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, which is Ohio’s largest education philanthropy focused on research-based education. KnowledgeWorks is one of the primary sponsors of YSU’s Early College, which allows high school pupils to enroll in and earn credit in university-level courses while attending high school.

“Youngstown Early College is redefining the link between high school and college,” Wick said.

Wick talked about people who made an impact on his life, including retired Judge Nathaniel Jones, for whom the newest federal courthouse in downtown Youngstown is named.

“From him I learned that the art of listening is a great and powerful thing,” Wick said of Judge Jones. “The art of listening will take you far.”

He also offered a piece of advice to graduates who will soon be looking to make their mark in the world.

“Even in a world where all the rules are changing, you don’t have to be original to be successful,” Wick said. “Persistence wins out over raw ability any day of the week.”

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