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USG Annual Graduation Celebration

Good evening, thank you very much Chancellor Caret.

Thank you, Dr. Edelsteen, distinguished guests, faculty members, and especially the members of the 2018 graduating class of the Universities at Shady Grove.

It is truly an honor to be here with you tonight.

I want to applaud and congratulate each and every one of the graduates on all of your hard work and dedication in your pursuit of knowledge and higher learning.

As each of you prepares to graduate over the next few weeks, I want to commend you for choosing to study and to receive a world-class education here at the Universities at Shady Grove, which combines the resources and the tools of nine of our outstanding Maryland public universities.

For 18 years now, USG has created high-quality and affordable educational and economic opportunities for its students.

This innovative partnership provides 80 upper-level undergraduate, graduate degree, and certificate programs.

It increases access to those great programs for more students and prepares them for the jobs of the future.

USG has built a reputation of developing well-rounded leaders who will make important contributions in business, science, engineering, education, health care, the liberal arts, and more.

To encourage further growth and even greater success, I am pleased to announce here today that our administration is investing an additional $2 million in new funding for biomedical sciences and engineering programs at the Universities at Shady Grove.

Have no doubt that I am standing among some of the best and brightest that Maryland has to offer.

As each of you prepares to graduate and to take this next important step in your lives, I just want to take this opportunity to share some thoughts and advice.

Preparing for today led me back—way, way back—to when I was graduating from college.

Back when I was much younger, quite a few pounds lighter, and when I had a lot more hair.

I thought about what advice I would want to impart to my younger self if given the chance, and then I had to decide which of that advice I could actually share with you!

It turns out that the most important things have nothing to do with politics or business and not all of them can be learned even in our great universities.

The truly important things have everything to do with life lessons.

First, I would urge you not to listen to the naysayers.

Ignore the negative chorus who sometimes throw comments from the cheap seats but who don’t actually step into the arena.

Take it from me, because if I had listened to them, there is no way that I would be standing here today as your governor.

I encourage you to be bold, to take risks, to take action, and to wrestle with life’s challenges with everything you’ve got in order to thrive and to succeed.

If you are relentless, tenacious, and have a positive attitude, you will exponentially increase your odds of success.

Looking back, I am incredibly thankful for those times in my life when I took risks and overcame long odds—those times when I did what people said could not possibly be done.

If you believe in something, if you work hard and do all the right things, success is still not guaranteed.

But it’s the only way to advance and to make your mark on the world.

I encourage you to always be willing to challenge the status quo and fight for change.

All too often, life tries to box us in and force labels on us.

We’re often told how to think and what to think or what to do.

But people who just go along with the crowd don’t bring about real change, and it’s not always the loudest voices that inspire people the most.

This is the first elected office I have ever held.

I spent most of my life as a small business man in the private sector.

And I don’t need to tell any of you that “politician” is almost a four-letter word these days.

And quite frankly, I share those same opinions about politics and politicians.

I’m frustrated with a dysfunctional political system that pits one party against another.

Where nobody ever gets along and where nothing ever seems to get done instead of working together, seeking compromise, and achieving common sense, bipartisan solutions to the serious problems that face us.

But this is what we have done in Maryland.

We have tried to seek that middle ground where we can all stand together.

When I decided to run for governor, I knew that it would be an uphill battle, but I have always loved a challenge.

I wanted to be a force for real and lasting change, and I knew that I could stay true to myself, stay true to my convictions, and still be successful.

This evening, I challenge all of you, no matter where life takes you: don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish something.

Cast aside the labels, think outside the box, and there will be no limit to how much you can achieve.

But also remember to stay grounded, stay true to who you are, act with honor, and never compromise your principles.

Take it from me, true leadership is not about titles or recognition; it’s about strength of character.

It’s about being willing to carve your own way in life despite those who may try to stand in your way.

I’d also advise you to always expect the unexpected, and don’t get thrown off course when obstacles appear from out of nowhere.

It was a cold snowy day three years ago when I stood on the steps of our historic state house in Annapolis and took the oath of office.

It was an exciting, hopeful day—a celebration of a new beginning for the people of Maryland.

Our administration pledged to set the bar higher, to create a bolder vision of the future for our state.

To put people back to work and to turn our economy around with an ambitious agenda.

We were making real progress, and then the unexpected happened.

Just 89 days after taking office, Baltimore City was in flames.

As the world watched, 400 homes and businesses were burned, looted, and ransacked, and 170 police and firefighters were injured in just the first few hours.

The worst violence in 47 years sought to tear apart the very fabric of our state’s largest city.

I declared a state of emergency and immediately moved our entire operation from Annapolis to Baltimore.

We worked around the clock to restore calm, peace, and order to the city.

Then, 60 days after the riots—just five months after becoming governor—I was faced with another more personal kind of challenge when doctors I had just met told me that I had an advanced and aggressive cancer that had rapidly spread throughout my body.

Here I was with a wife, three children, and a young grandchild all counting on me.

And as a new governor, I had an entire state depending on me.

That was Father’s Day weekend, and I had very tough news to share with my family.

Then I needed to tell the people of Maryland, the people whom I was recently elected to serve.

I held a press conference that Monday, and, of course, the questions started rolling in.

Would I be able to keep doing my job while undergoing cancer treatment?

A reporter asked me: “Governor, what are your odds?”

I said: “Well the odds are much better than they were of being elected governor!”

It certainly wasn’t a challenge that I asked for or anything that I expected, but I’m a fighter and I never, ever give up.

Over the course of the 18 months following my diagnosis, I endured aggressive 24-hour-a-day chemotherapy, several surgeries, spinal taps, immunotherapy, drug therapies, and countless other procedures.

I learned about the ways that cancer and chemotherapy can ravage your body.

I learned about the pain, the side effects, and the often overwhelming physical and emotional exhaustion.

But it was in the midst of that personal struggle that I was constantly reminded once again how blessed and how truly lucky I am.

In life, there are going to be things you can plan for and work toward and there will be some challenges that you will see coming.

But there are also going to be things that take you completely by surprise.

Things that will hit you from out of nowhere and that will test your strength your will and your character.

I suspect that many of you here this evening can relate to some kind of unforeseen challenge and its reminder of the important things in your life.

Thanks to a great team of doctors and nurses, a loving family, a positive attitude, and the power of prayer, I am now 100% cancer free and in complete remission.

But my struggle helped remind me what is truly important: my family, friends, and my faith, the support system that saw me through on good days and bad.

Life is much too short, and you never know how much time you have.

So trust me—you want to make the most of every minute of it.

I plan to use every single day that I am given to give this job as your governor everything I’ve got—to improve the quality of life for the people of Maryland that I serve and to be worthy of the office that you have entrusted me with.

So figure out what’s most important to you and hold onto it.

Keep people around you who make you a better person and keep you grounded.

Stay true to who you are.

Embrace the things that make you unique.

Do what you are passionate about.

Take bold risks.

Challenge the status quo.

Don’t ever give up.

And keep a healthy perspective on the truly important things in life.

Looking out at all of you tonight gives me hope for a better future.

I’m incredibly optimistic for each and every one of you and all that you will accomplish.

On behalf of the people of a proud state, I want to extend our most sincere congratulations to each of you on your graduations.

Thank you.

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