This past December, my good wife, Rose Buyck Newton, gave the keynote address at the graduation of the Master's in Business Administrations (MBA) class of the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. The speech was well received, and the look of relief and accomplishment on Rose's face was perfect.
When she was asked to give the address, the prospect of speaking for 10 minutes in front of a crowd of the smartest folks in the state was a little daunting. After a bit of hand wringing and anxiety, Rose, as always, jumped right into it with purpose and intentionality.
She assembled a small group of advisors, and our good friend Josh Cooke invited her to use the Roasting Room, above his flagship coffee shop, the Corner Perk, as a conference room and rehearsal space.
Drafts were produced and revised, and revised again. After conversation and word counts, there were more drafts and revisions. It came together. Ten minutes and change. Strong. Tight. Vivid.
The speech was constructed around tributes to two Strong Southern Women (SSW's), and how they influenced Rose to enter the MBA program, and in her development during and after her tenure at Darla Moore School of Business. One was Rose's mother, Frances Buyck, who, in 1962, was the first female awarded an MBA from USC. The other was Rose's "first boss," Libby Henley, who retired in December as director of the Professional MBA Program. Rose worked for her in the program office during school and the summer after her graduation, some 25 years ago.
Both these extraordinary women, in different ways, have conducted themselves in ways that seem to show others, particularly young women, how to navigate in a world that has often seemed unappreciative of their best efforts. Their heuristic approach has allowed Rose to glean and report, 25 years on, some traits and strategies that will get you through the door without having to kick it in. This is what good graduation speeches, in a perfect world, would do.
Some of these gleanings are: Be kind. That intern you were dismissive of might be your boss in a few years, or your graduation speaker. Being kind, being a decent person, is also massively good for business.
Another gleaning: Know yourself and your values. We were taught as children about right and wrong. Unfortunately, most of our decisions are in that wide spectrum of gray space. We have to be able to access our personal "head space" and "heart space." Practice finding reflections of your values in your decisions. Over time, it becomes second nature.
There were a dozen or so gleanings in the speech. Surprisingly, I found that there were more than a few in which I could use some work.
On reflection, my final thought is that this graduation address was one SSW acknowledging her debt to two older SSW's, graciously, and with profound gratitude.
That's my girl.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov