Saturday, June 08, 2013


Good Morning and Welcome to Commencement 2013. We’re pleased and excited that you could all join us today – both all of our graduates and your family members and significant others – to celebrate this important milestone.

You are each on the cusp of many new changes in your careers and in your lives. Get used to it because constant rapid change is one of the only certainties in the world today. The truth is that there are very few plateaus in life – at any and in fact at every given moment, you’re either moving up and forward or you’re sliding backwards. And, just like in any avalanche or other rapidly-changing environment, the only option that we know for sure won’t work is standing still.

TFA is changing too in many new and exciting ways. As I hope you all know by now, we added a new senior member to our team and it’s my pleasure to welcome our new President and CEO, Todd Steele. I’m continuing as the Chairman of TFA and I not going very far (actually just one flight upstairs), but I’m sure that, with Todd’s help, TFA will continue to grow and expand far into the future.

Today is 6 long years (almost to the hour) from the day we started construction on our new college in 2007 and there hasn’t been a single day during that time that hasn’t been exciting, challenging, painful and amazingly rewarding and mostly because – every year – year-in and year-out – we’ve had the opportunity and the privilege to help each of our students make something new, better, different and beautiful of their lives and their futures.

Something that many of you (and your parents) probably wouldn’t or couldn’t have imagined could come true for you and yet – here you stand – and we couldn’t be prouder of you.  You’ve been changed – a lot – hopefully for the better, but we know this for sure – there’s no going back – you’ve been changed for good. You don’t sneer or sulk; you don’t compromise or settle for less than your best; and you don’t suck. What else could you really ask for?

We’ve built a place here to be proud of. It’s a place of passion and beauty unlike any other. And it’s one example that I hope you’ll all take with you from your experience here and aspire to emulate in your own careers. Making things that matter and make a difference is hard work. These things aren’t built by bookkeepers – they’re built by creatives and dreamers who have a vision and an important story to tell, and no choice BUT to tell it.

Just like in ballet, the best of the best don’t want to dance, they HAVE to dance. And they have to believe – believe in their dream; believe in themselves; and ultimately believe in something even bigger than that. Because it takes away from your soul when you do what you don’t believe in. This is the kind of energy and commitment that we expect each of you to bring to whatever you do. And, believe me, it’s what will set you apart and make all the difference.

Each story that’s told may manifest itself in different ways – they can be fashions, foods, factories or films, but whatever form they take, the story is strong and the underlying passion is always obvious. No one in the entire history of mankind ever said: “Let’s go see that movie – they brought it in right on budget. It must be great.”  And they never will.

So remember as you leave here and set out to make your own dreams real, that, while you need to be responsible, respectful and realistic, that won’t ever be enough. And talent and technology alone won’t get you there either.  The bottom line never changes – it's your passion, preparation, persistence and hard work that will make the difference. It’s never about the money. And everything else is nice to have.

And speaking of nice to have, we are honored today to have a terrific graduation speaker with us.  It’s my pleasure to introduce Mark Walsh.  Mark’s bio is in your programs and I’m not going to read it other than to note that he’s been an investor, a dashing media personality, an entrepreneur, a technologist and he even dabbled in politics for a while.

Mark and I have known each other and worked together for many years and when we needed a new TFA Board member with media and technology experience, I reached out to Mark and he immediately accepted our offer.  Mark’s been a great friend to the college and an important contributor to the Board and I’m very pleased to have him speak with you today.                

H.A.T.  June 8, 2013

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