A hearty V for victory is signaled by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Harvard University Army and Navy units during a review on Sept. 6, 1943, in Cambridge. Churchill was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by Harvard.

Between Thursday and Friday, some 21,000 students from Utah State, Utah Valley University and the University of Utah experienced the relief, anticipation and stress that comes with graduating from college. As custom requires, the final test for the students was to sit still through graduation speeches.

Such oratories have a long history. In fact, the Deseret News has an entire file folder dedicated to graduation speeches reaching way back through the decades. The job prospects graduates have faced over the years have ebbed and flowed with the economy, innovation and global competition. What didn't change was how graduates were regularly reminded of how good they had it and how hard it was in the “old days.” Calls to work hard, dream big and chart your course are timeless.

In 1943, Winston Churchill delivered a graduation speech of his own at Harvard University. Churchill, somewhat prophetically, predicted the collapse of the world’s most dominant military and political empires and that the world would then enter a new phase of development. This new phase, he foretold, would be one where creativity, innovation, ingenuity and personal initiative would rule the day. “The empires of the future will be empires of the mind,” he told the listening students.

He couldn’t have been more right. America has been on a fast-track of revolutionary development, technological breakthroughs, transformational products and personalized services. It now experiences more change and innovation in one 24-hour cycle than in decades of our grandparents’ lives. In such a fast-forward society “knowledge-preneurs” will always be in demand. Forever learners are almost always the most successful and highly compensated people, regardless of their field of endeavor.

The shelf life of a university degree in a rapidly changing world is shrinking. The two most important takeaways a student should acquire from the time they enter kindergarten through college graduation are 1) to learn how to learn, and 2) to learn to love learning. The discipline of knowing how to learn new skills, expand ideas and stretch knowledge is central to building and growing a personal “empire of the mind.”

Formal learning has its place in preparing students for careers and life. However, learning should never be limited to libraries or confined to classrooms.

If the empires of the future are found within the empires of the mind, the leaders of the future will develop within an empire of the soul. Churchill included in his Harvard address, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” The greatest responsibility is the commitment to be kind, to lift others and to love others.

6 comments on this story

That's not a traditional theme for a “look out for yourself” world. But amid all the advice poured over graduates from speakers, family and friends, students would be wise to remember the simpler advice of the soul: Listen with empathy, love with courage and labor with compassion.

No matter the degree, from mechanical engineering, mathematics and medicine to family living, vocational trades and education itself, success won't be measured by what one knows but rather by who one is. The empire of the future is open to all who are willing to build their minds and enlarge their souls.