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I had the pleasure of serving as the commencement speaker at Delgado Community College today. I love commencements. Of course, I love my own at Dillard because those are my students. But I just love the air of possibilities at each commencement.

Since 2012 I have done 11 now including Delgado, 2 HBCUs (Morris College and Delaware State), and 8 high schools (Miller McCoy, Sophie Wright, KIPP, Cohen, St. Mary’s, Warren Easton, Landry Walker, and Lake Area).

Today I revisited one of my favorite books: Purple Cow by Seth Godin. I asked a series of questions as part of the speech.

  1. Aren’t most cows brown? Yes, and most people don’t have fulfilling careers because they are boring, and do the same things over and over again.
  2. What can brown do for you? Nothing. Godin writes “Most companies are so afraid of offending or appearing ridiculous that they steer far away from any path that might lead them to this result. They make boring products because they don’t want to be interesting. When a committee gets involved, each well-meaning participant sands off the rough edges, speaking up for how their constituency might not like the product. The result is something boring and safe.”
  3. So what’s a purple cow? Godin writes “Something remarkable is worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting. It’s a Purple Cow. Boring stuff is invisible. It’s a brown cow.” I argued that truly exceptional people have an easier time finding jobs, because jobs come and find them. They don’t need resumes. And this is because they do an exceptional job with every job they have.
  4. Is it easy being purple? Great wisdom here from Godin: “If you’re remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you. That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise — ever. The best the timid can hope for is to be unnoticed. Criticism comes to those who stand out.”

So I challenged the graduates (and their families) to be exceptional, not just safe and boring, because today those qualities are risky. I used a recent example of a brown cow, Laverne Davis, 63, who graduated from Delgado and graduated from Dillard on Saturday. She was the front page story on Mother’s Day in the Times-Picayune.

It’s a great question we should ask ourselves: what color cow are you?

The Prez

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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