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Dan Eichenlaub's Commencement Address

Posted: June 16, 2015

Transcript of the spring 2015 commencement address, presented by Daniel J. Eichenlaub ('78 Architectural Engineering) to our College of Agricultural Sciences graduates on May 10, 2015.
Daniel J. Eichenlaub, '78 Architectural Engineering

Daniel J. Eichenlaub, '78 Architectural Engineering

Good afternoon. Thank you, Dean Roush, for that kind introduction.

It is an honor and a privilege to address this Class of 2015, your family and friends, the faculty, staff, and distinguished guests of the college.

A few weeks ago, some College alumni and I were meeting with President Barron and we asked how he recharged, given the stress of his position…his answer was that he went out and engaged with the students.

I completely understand his response. You students are a source of inspiration to me. Whether I see you in the classroom, at a career fair, or just a little while ago at the ice cream social, you continue to energize me with your enthusiasm, accomplishments and thirst for knowledge. I am impressed with your achievements and stimulated by your questions.

We all know that time is a limited and precious resource. I am a visual person, so I see life like a roll of toilet paper…it revolves much faster as you use it up. So don’t waste time, make every moment count. You’ll be at the end of the roll before you know it!

Ultimately, what the College of Ag Science teaches is the survival of the human race. While other colleges may focus on what is necessary for our cultural survival, it is agriculture that is essential for our physical survival. We need clean water, clean air, and we need energy…especially in the form of food. So the other colleges are counting on you as the basic building block that enables them to be relevant.

As you move forward from today’s events, consider the economic revolution you are about to experience. The industrial economy has had its day…we are in the Experience Economy, where consumers place value on not just what they are purchasing, but on the experience surrounding it.

This is fueled in part by the Internet of Things, where data is used to enhance products and services to make them more effective. This requires individuals and enterprises to abandon old Industrial and Service Economy paradigms in order to introduce new experiences, transformations and innovations.

I am sure you are aware of the power in your smart phones. You can Track your activity levels with a Fitbit, efficiently heat or cool your home with a Nest thermostat, and locate your lost keys or a parked car.

We are counting on you to bring important change in the decades ahead. I will use food as an example, but the challenges we face, and the need for change, are in every one of your disciplines.

Projections indicate that by 2050, the world will have 9.5 billion people. As a result, ADM, one of the world’s largest agricultural companies, predicts that we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we produced in the previous 10,000. And, due to urban sprawl and diminishing or compromised natural resources, we will need to do this on less land and with substantially less water.

Our futures, though, are not just determined by innovation and technology. Involvement is Essential. Don’t allow yourselves to become passive and let life happen around you. Effect change. Vote! If you are not already registered, do so. Vote every May in the primary and every November in the general election. Don’t sit back and let others determine your destiny. Get involved!

There are two attributes that I hope you will use often…daily. I have found them to be cornerstones in achieving success. Whether that be in business, as a parent, or a community volunteer…it is critical to have awareness and perseverance.

While today, you have reached a milestone in your education; this is just the start of your life-long learning. You need to constantly be examining what is going on around you…aware of how the world is changing, so that you can know how to join in and contribute.

I consider at my 91-year-old mother-in-law. She grew up on a farm in southern Illinois with no electricity or running water until well after grade school…and today…she Skypes on an iMac with her children wherever they are around the globe.

Imagine what changes and developments will occur in your lifetime, and more importantly, what your role will be in that progress.

The Experience Economy is giving new life to local farms that just a decade ago were thought to be on the verge of extinction. New consumer values and innovations are giving rise to their sustainability.

No matter what your current position is in life, awareness is power. Power scares those who don’t know how to harness it. The great companies capitalize on this every day…Apple, Uber, Fed Ex. They are creatively out-performing their predecessors like IBM, traditional taxi services, and the US Postal service by meeting or exceeding customer needs in new and creative ways.

Disruptive innovation is here to stay, and any company that wants to survive must embrace these new paradigms or risk losing their market.

In my industry of landscaping, there is a major change underway. About 20 years ago we had some roll ups…the combining of individual entities into regional players. Some were successful, some were not, but Wall Street learned from the experience. The Wall Street investment bankers have been dabbling in the industry again since the recession, and last year they came calling in a big way…by combining the two largest companies in my industry into a $3 billion a year entity. We are talking landscaping here, but disruptive innovation knows no bounds.

My peers who are not paying attention…not aware… will be complaining in future years that they are working harder than ever with less success.

Take the blinders off…see it all…the more you are aware the more opportunity you will have to achieve.

Awareness in and of itself is not enough…you need to do something with it. That is where, the 2nd attribute, perseverance comes into play.

If you have ever competed in a sport, you have exercised this attribute. When we pick up the bat, the tennis racket, or in my case a target rifle, for the first time or even the 100th time, we were not the top contenders.

We needed coaching, practice, and perseverance to progress one bad shot after another until our skills improved and success began to happen.

It is no different with life, but many forget this lesson. We let the fear of not succeeding keep us from even engaging or trying. Remember Thomas Edison’s team had thousands of tries before they had success with the first light bulb.

Your grandparents had the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try, again”. Use that philosophy along with your sports, artistic, or academic competitive experiences, and strengthen your perseverance.

Remember that fear is being afraid and doing it anyway. I am confident that your parents or friends could identify a few fearless experiences you had during your teenage years. You learned from them and still managed to make it through college. I am suggesting that you take calculated risk…if you want to make a difference.

After graduation, many of you may be going on to a job you perceive as less than an ideal opportunity. Embrace the chance to learn everything you can about the position. Then learn about the positions that interact with it. Instead of wasting energy thinking or talking about what you don’t like…use the energy to seek awareness of new opportunities and to learn.

Your natural abilities along with your education and ongoing awareness powered by hard work and perseverance will bring you more satisfaction and fulfillment than power or privilege ever will.

They say that a good commencement speech should be memorable. I told you earlier that I was a visual person, so I am giving you something tangible to commemorate today. As each of you crosses the stage, I’m going to give you a two-dollar bill. It should be significant for several reasons.

First of all, tens of thousands of dollars have been spent on your education. So now, you will have that first return on investment.

Second, just as the two-dollar bill is legal tender like all of the other bills, it has a certain distinctiveness that sets it aside from the other denominations. And you are receiving college degrees today like so many other students, but like the two-dollar bill, you have unique qualities that I know will have an impact on the future of our planet.

Third, I want it to remind you to take an active part in your governance and vote two times a year. Fourth, I hope it serves to remind you of those two attributes I encourage you to use every day…awareness and perseverance.

And finally, I hope that it will remind you of today. What you have accomplished with the dedication and support of your families, and The Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences.

That’s one memorable two-dollar bill! Congratulations and best wishes for your continued success!

Daniel J. Eichenlaub ’78 AE
Spring 2015 Commencement Address, May 10, 2015
Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences