We attended the Stanford Commencement ceremonies to support our young friend Zach Stuart who was graduating in Mechanical Engineering. He was part of nearly 3,000 recipients in several different disciplines to receive their degrees this year from this paramount of higher education. As we sat there in the huge stadium and watched the proceedings we couldn’t help but recognize that these young people will change the future.
NBC News foreign correspondent Richard Engle, a Stanford grad himself, gave the keynote. He encouraged the grads to take chances and “Please don’t get a desk job!” He said that the world was on a collision course with three super trends: technology, over population, and climate change.
He warned that when these forces combine into a deadly cocktail we will see a chaotic and unstable future. He painted the picture of populations doubling and, at the same time, being able to better communicate. He said this would lead to political upheaval where demigods promise peace and stability but disappoint only to be replaced by yet another demigod. He drew the picture of a horrific collision between a bus and a car and said all of the human experience can be seen in that moment; life, death, rescue and escape. He told the grads they could learn from witnessing it.
After graduation Richard Engle left Stanford with $2000 in his pocket and a one-way ticket for Cairo. He said he has been shot at, kidnapped, arrested, and deported during his time as a celebrated war correspondent in the Middle East. His experiences may have contributed to the tone of his talk which was peppered with dire images of an apocalyptic future. Certainly the shock value got the grads attention with the somewhat redeeming message to get out there, take a chance and witness life to continue your education in the real world.
We take a different view. We have spoken to more than 20,000 students in the past two years, but our message takes a more positive spin. We believe this generation will be the saviors, not just the reporters, not just the helpless witnesses. On the contrary, no generation of western grads has been better educated, better informed on world events, more aware of climate change, and more concerned about over population than this one.
Today’s graduates can change the course of the “collision.” They can and will see these mega trends as opportunities for new paradigms, new inventions, and new solutions. Communication can not only make society aware of corruption and foment upheaval, but it can also demonstrate how personal behavioral can empower each of us to make positive changes that can change the world.
Over population’s consequences can be communicated and alternatives offered. New attitudes toward food, air and water can take hold much faster with enhanced communication. Increasing tech-driven transparencies can hold companies accountable for social, employment, and environmental impact.
Climate change can be mitigated with alternative sources of power and transportation. Just making alternative energy more efficient and less expensive than fossil fuel will help the environment, curb warming, and reduce the ongoing wars financed by fossil fuel sales.
All of this spells opportunity for today’s grads.
We want to encourage the grads to not just watch the future, but change the future. Maybe some young engineer like Zach will come up with a breakthrough invention that makes it all possible. One thing is for sure; all grads will be more likely to do it and even more if we let them know now that we are counting on them and believe they can do it! Go get ’em grads!
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
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