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The Word According to Seuss (2011 Summer Commencement Address, morning)

  • Date: 08/13/2011
  • Author: Dr. Luis M. Proenza (President, The University of Akron)
  • Location: E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall
  • So, here you are now poised to go out there, into the “real world,” as they say; you are ready to go forth, to “commence.”  After all, that is what this ceremony is all about – marking your passage from “here” to “there.”

    Of course, this is not the first time you have gone from “here” to “there,” nor is it the last.  Life is full of opportunities and passages such as these, which change your perspective of “here” or “there.”

    In a few moments, we will honor Mr. Edward L. Bittle, a distinguished individual who once sat at the very crossroads where you are today, contemplating his future as a University of Akron graduate. His story is comprised of numerous twists and turns, opportunities and risks, and goings from various “here”s to “there”s.

    You will hear more about our honoree a bit later, but I will tell you now that he came here to his hometown University as a young husband and father. He was a part- time student and ROTC cadet who worked for a tire company by day and as a jazz musician by night.  And, while playing drums for iconic vocalists Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme might have been enough of a lifetime achievement for any other person, it was only the start for Mr. Bittle, who earned his degree and went on to create two successful companies and achieve renown as a leader in business and his community.  He has been a successful student-athlete, performer, entrepreneur, employer and citizen.

    So what might a future University of Akron president have to say about you 30 years or so from now when one of you is “here,” and others are “there?”

    I believe the story will be every bit as interesting and satisfying, but it will be your own unique adventure.

    Ted Geisel’s last book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go[i],” is a timeless classic about just that topic.  It will always be as appropriate for a five-year-old as it is for this college graduating class. So to you, the class of 2011, let me congratulate you in the words of Mr. Geisel, who wrote under the name, Dr. Seuss.  So here it goes:



    Today is your day.

    You’re off to Great Places!

    You’re off and away!


    You have brains in your head.

    You have feet in your shoes.

    You can steer yourself

    Any direction you choose.

    You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

    And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.


    You’ll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care.

    About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there."

    You’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.


    Out there things can happen

    And frequently do

    To people as brainy

    And footsy as you.


    And when things start to happen,

    Don’t worry. Don’t stew.

    Just go right along

    You’ll start happening too.




    You’ll be on your way up!

    You’ll be seeing great sights!

    You’ll join the high fliers

    Who soar to high heights.


    You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.

    You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.

    Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.

    Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.


    Except when you don’t.

    Because, sometimes, you won’t.


    I’m sorry to say so

    But, sadly, it’s true

    That Bang-ups

    And Hang-ups

    Can happen to you.


    And the chances are, then

    That you’ll be in a Slump.

    You’re not in for much fun.

    Un-slumping yourself

    Is not easily done.


    You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.

    Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.

    Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?

    How much can you lose? How much can you win?


    And IF you go in, should you turn left or right. . .

    Or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?

    Or go around back and sneak in from behind?

    Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,

    For a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.


    You can get so confused

    That you’ll start in to race.

    Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace,
    And grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,

    Headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

    The Waiting Place. . .


    . . .for people just waiting.

    Waiting for a train to go

    Or a bus to come, or a plane to go

    Or the mail to come, or the rain to go

    Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

    Or waiting around for a Yes or a No

    Everyone is just waiting.


    NO! That’s not for you!


    Somehow you’ll escape.

    You’ll find the bright places.



    There is fun to be done!

    There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.


    I’m afraid that some times

    You’ll play lonely games too.

    Games you can’t win

    ‘cause you’ll play against you.


    All Alone!

    Whether you like it or not,

    Alone will be something

    You’ll be quite a lot.


    But on you will go

    Though the weather be foul.

    On you will go

    Though your enemies prowl.

    On you will go.

    Onward up many

    A frightening creek,


    On and on you will hike.

    And I know you’ll hike far

    And face up to your problems

    Whatever they are.


    You’ll get mixed up, of course,

    As you already know.

    With many strange birds as you go.


    So be sure when you step,

    Step with care and great tact.

    And remember that Life’s

    A Great Balancing Act.

    Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.


    And will you succeed?

    Yes! You will, indeed!

    (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)




    So. . .

    You’re off to Great Places!

    Today is your day!

    Your mountain is waiting.

    So. . .get on your way!






    [i] Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, by Seuss, Dr. Seuss, Random House Trade, January 1990                                                               

  • Tags: career, Bittle
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