Maj. Gen. Peter Talleri, USMC, retired, was the guest speaker at Clarion University’s 2013 winter commencement. Talleri, a 1975 graduate of Butler High School and 1979 graduate of Clarion University, delivered remarks to 441 graduates, including 145 who earned master’s degrees, and 296 who completed bachelor’s degrees.
Talleri had a distinguished 34-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps and was recipient of Clarion University Alumni Association’s 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award. He encouraged the graduates to be grateful to join the one percent of the world’s population that is fortunate enough to attend college, and to be grateful for the people and experiences at Clarion University.
He recalled the anxiety that he felt as he sat at his own commencement in 1979.
“Like many of you, I had a plan on graduation. My plan involved earning a commission in the United States Marine Corps as a second lieutenant,” Talleri said. “As fortunate as I was to be graduating and to have received my commission, I was wracked with anxiety, hoping I had what it took … to develop as a leader and earn the trust and respect of my Marines.”
He said he still feels that anxiety upon starting something new, including his current position as head of the International Division at Anglicotech LLC. He speculated about what he would say to his 21-year-old self in advising the graduates about how to approach the future.
“Look forward to what’s ahead and don’t worry so much. Accept that life will be a series of detours, unanticipated challenges, and unexpected opportunities that you must trust yourself to take,” he said. “If you have anxiety that you are not fully prepared for what’s ahead, don’t worry. You are not fully prepared. But you will do your best, bringing the confidence and strength you’ve gained in these four years here and you will ultimately will figure it all out.”
He further encouraged the students to gravitate toward responsibility and leadership, and he said that no matter the kind of work they do, they can be a leader and give back to the workplace, their families and their communities.
“There is a saying, that we make a living by what we get, but make a life by what we give,” Talleri said. “Live and embrace that idea as you leave this university. Remember that your glories are yet to be, and your legacy starts today. Where it begins and ends is up to you.”
The student speaker was Nic Rawson, a 2009 graduate of Clarion-Limestone High School, who was receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in cellular, molecular and organismal biology.
He advised his peers to follow five points.
First, stay grounded, but don’t stay in one place too long. “A rolling stone gathers no moss, so never stagnate. … Experience everything you can, and grow your borders so as to grow yourself,” Rawson said. “Keep Clarion in your hearts, but keep the whole world as your home.”
Second, Rawson told his fellow graduates, “Find what you love in life, and become the principal expert on that particular subject. Become the master of your craft.” However, he said, vary experiences to be well rounded. “When you focus on one thing too intently, you are bound to miss better opportunities.”
Third, Rawson advised to take pride in all that you have accomplished and will accomplish, but stay humble. “A college degree is a confirmation of conferred[JJ1] knowledge. Knowledge, not wisdom. Wisdom is gained by experience …”
Fourth, “Never allow yourself to be goaded to believe in something just because someone tells you that you should. Stick to your moral code and listen to your own thoughts,” Rawson said. “However, listen to every argument that you can and take in as much knowledge as possible. … The world has many answers to offer, so listen and take heed.”
Rawson’s final point was to be a parent, not necessarily by having children, but by leading and being a mentor to someone. At the same time, he said, “Be a child. … Look at new and interesting things with wide-eyed curiosity, and never stop asking ‘why.’”
Rawson, a paramedic for Jefferson County EMS and Clarion Hospital EMS, plans to apply to medical school.