I found this very recent speech made by Robert Agostinelli at St. John Fisher University.It is an honor to accept this degree from the university that served me so well. The formation I received in the Christian faith and the power of reason prepared me for everything that has come afterwards – the challenges and the success, and how to manage both. This institution was led by visionary — indeed sainted men — in Bishop James Kearney and Father Lavery, who understood what values and knowledge need to be imparted to serve society. I also bow to the memory of my mentor, Stefan Mazincynski, a constitutional-law professor who, like my grandparents, came to these shores seeking freedom and opportunity. Stevan fought both the Nazis and the Communist Soviets in defense of his homeland Poland. My family faced the impending tyranny in Italy. Staring down the worst humanity can dish out, all these people became Americans because they had lived in the hell that is the alternative to the liberty we take for granted here. This takes optimism to believe that tomorrow will be better than today because we can make it so. My message to you is to share their optimism in your future and acknowledge the precious nature of this great nation. Reject the declinists who claim that America is in retreat, and instead embrace a bright future. The American Dream is based on taking risks and fighting against the odds to bring innovation to the world. It was the story of Standard Oil, Carnegie Steel and Ford Motor Company, which lifted millions out of poverty through industrialization, and more recently it is the story of Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and WeWorks. It is the story of great Americans like Bruce Dunlevy, who worked for me at Goldman Sachs in the early 80’s and left as a young analyst to start his own business Benchmark from scratch. Bruce believed in his vision and built the world’s most successful venture firm, which provided seed capital behind all these social-media successes I just mentioned. When I was a student here in the 1970s, the declinists said our best days were behind us. Yet, these were the years when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft, Larry Ellison founded Oracle, and Bernie Marcus founded HomeDepot. As of last year, the combined market value of these four companies was well over 1 trillion dollars — greater than the entire GDP of our ally South Korea, the 15th largest economy in the world. This narrative of greatness is also your story. It is believing you have the right stuff to be a great nurse, doctor or astronaut — or maybe a financier/investor like me. This spirit that anything is possible is based on the belief in the right of everyone to the pursuit of happiness. As JFK explained, America succeeds by asking “Why?” rather than “Why not?” More has been done to further progress by America than anywhere else because we are a people who believe we can do things better. Since Columbus touched these shores, the Pilgrims knelt down and kissed the ground, and our Founding Patriots risked all for independence, the commitment to pursuing human betterment for all has been understood as our God-given responsibility. This is because Americans believe in the value and potential of every individual, which also is the engine that powers capitalism. Distilled to the bare essence, markets operate based on the principle that the decisions made every day by millions of individuals are right. 480 years ago next month, the namesake of this university, St. John Fisher, was martyred for defending the doctrines of our Catholic faith. All the heroic bishop had to say were two words – “I submit” – and he would have been spared. Facing execution by beheading, he warned the world [QUOTE], “The fort is betrayed even by them who should have defended it.” [UNQUOTE]. My father was a decorated warrior near mortally wounded in Korea prior to my birth. If you asked why with a young bride he risked all, his answer was the same as all my uncles who swerved: They were defending the gifts of freedom and opportunity this nation gives us. You have received a first-rate education here at our alma mater, so your brains are sharp and active. With this intelligence comes a responsibility to use it not only wisely but also courageously. Like St. John Fisher, as well as my father and millions of veterans, you must choose to do good and fight for the beliefs that are a shining beacon of liberty for all. God bless you, this university, and this exceptional land. The world is your oyster — go make your pearls. Thank you.
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