Dr. Gwen Combs, associate professor of management, delivered the commencement address at the graduate and professional degrees ceremony to 326 University of Nebraska-Lincoln students earning their degrees on Friday, December 15 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Her speech centered on Louis Armstrong's 1967 hit "What a Wonderful World."
Combs explained how the song was written during a turbulent time, yet describes the beauty of nature and life and carries a message of hope and possibility. She said although the world is intrinsically wonderful, everyone must bear the responsibility of preserving that wonder and giving it room to flourish.
"The power of your graduate degrees provides the credentials for you to leave bold footprints in this world. Often we underestimate our capacity to bring good into the world and to change the world in significant ways, yet I believe we have everything necessary to shine our light into our magnificent world," she said.
Combs told graduates how leaving a tangible footprint doesn't require great wealth or Einstein's genius, but three Ds: desire, drive and determination. She explained desire includes knowing you are capable of making necessary change, drive contains the volition or act of will fueled by desire to purposefully make a difference and determination describes the ability to be steadfast in the pursuit of goals and opposition.
She also encouraged the graduates to use their knowledge and skills to reach back, reach down and reach out. She explained reaching involves extending yourself to others to provide an example for what they can become.
“In planning and executing your life's purpose, take the time and make the effort to bring others alongside you who are struggling to perceive their potential,” Combs said. “I ask you to reach down and extend a hand to others whose aspirations are so low that they cannot envision their footprints adding beauty to this wonderful world. I encourage you to reach out and pull others into your circle so they can see your successes and begin to imagine what success can look like for them in their lives.”
She emphasized the capacity for Nebraska graduates to uplift their communities and closed her address by urging the graduates to make their corners of the world "better, richer and more humane."
Combs said, “The rich and beautiful good that you create, it moves with you. And, if you are fortunate enough, you will observe spiraling around you the domino effect of your enduring footprint. If you glance back, your will see reflections of your unique footprint and then you can say to yourself and you can say to others, What a Wonderful World!”