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Remarks as Delivered by Secretary Vilsack to Graduates at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University Spring 2015 Commencement in Tallahassee, Florida

May 2, 2015

Madame President, thank you very much. I know what you are all thinking. Really? A commencement speech. Get on with it. We want that diploma. Just so you know this is the speech, so it's going to be short because I realize the class of '15 knows a lot more from their studies than I would ever know. So I thought I would tell you a story. It's a story that was written by another college president, Sam Babbitt. He was the president of Kirkland College, the college that my wife Christie went to. It's a story about a magician and a king.

The story goes: Once upon a time, there was a young king. Like many kings, he had entertainers at court and his favorite was this magician. The king was so amazed, so impressed by this magician that he pledged to him 'I will take care of you, and your children, for as long as I reign.'

What the young kid didn't know is that the magician had many children. In the end, the king was on the hook for 49 magicians.

For a time, it was great. There was always something going on every single day. Magic tricks and wonders of all kinds.

But as he got older, the tricks became a little wearisome. And on a particular day, as the story goes, an ambassador who visited the kingdom, had his cup turned into a toad by one of the magicians, and the king at that point said, 'Enough is enough. I've had enough. We've got to get something done about the fact that we have too many magicians.'

And so he stopped a wise man along the road. And the wise man gave him advice and he thanked the wise man. And the advice was to have a contest.

'King you should find out who the best magician is, keep the best magician, and get rid of the rest.'

So he gave the magicians a week to prepare. They worked hard with all of their mirrors and various items. And the contest came. And he watched amazing tricks. They used technology. They used smoke. They used mirrors. It was an incredible performance. And finally the last magician to perform stepped up. And he was a young, a very, very young magician.

And he said, 'Sir you've seen amazing things today. But what I'd like to do, is I'd like to show you how to turn hours into minutes and minutes into seconds, until time itself disappears.'

The king was a fair king. He was very skeptical that anybody could make time disappear. But he decided to give the young magician a chance. And so, the young magician said, 'Sir you have to come out of the castle and out into nature.'

And they spent the rest of the morning and the afternoon out in nature. They took blades of grass and blew it between their thumbs. They dammed up a small stream and they were having a terrific time. Finally somebody from the castle came because they were concerned about the fact the king had been gone so long. They said: 'Sire, it's time for supper.'

And at that point the king realized that indeed this young magician had made time disappear; hours into minutes, minutes into seconds, until time itself disappeared. So why do I tell the class of 2015 this story? Why do I tell them that that last magician, the 49th magician, was the one that won the contest? Well several reasons.

First of all, I start off with the story to remind you that your education, no doubt, started with stories told by the people in this audience: your parents, your grandparents, your aunts, your uncles, the people that mentored you; that shared with you their family stories and that became part of who you are. Never forget it.

Secondly, the young king made a promise when he was young. He didn't really think about the ramifications of that promise before he made it. So the caution is to make sure that as you're giving promises, and you'll make many promises in your life, make sure you think about exactly what you're promising and live up to it.

He stopped the wise man along the way and asked for advice. If you're on your way to law school or to graduate school and you're going to be giving people advice, make sure you get paid for it. But also understand that you need to invest in giving that advice. You need to invest in having the knowledge and the experience to be able to give good advice. Magicians used lots of technology and certainly this is a generation that is very familiar with technology and embraces technology, as well you should. But the reality is that the winner of the contest is one who used his imagination. And the human imagination and the human spirit of creativity are far more powerful than any iPad or iPhone. And as you go on into your careers, use that imagination and creativity to the extent that you can. Value it. Nurture it. It's an incredibly powerful force in your life. And you'll need that force. Because class of 2015, you're going to be the generation that figures out how to deal with global food security challenges and feed the 825 million people around the world, who go to bed every day malnourished. You're going to be the generation that figures out to help us adapt and mitigate to a changing climate. You're going be the generation of problem solvers that figures out new and creative ways to use building materials to construct new cities, new rural areas. You're going to be the generation that redefines and develops the new American economy that's based on making, creating and innovating.

And to do that you're going to be the generation that allows this country to have a better experience with science then it's had. You're going to make us fall back in love with the notion of science instead of being distrustful of it. So you need to use that imagination and creativity. You need to understand the significance of nature, as we deal with serious issues involving food supplies and water, and climate. It's going to be your talent, your expertise, your knowledge that will lead the world to a safer and better place in terms of its relationship with nature.

But the principle reason I tell you this story, is to make sure that you understand the moral of it—the secret to life. You're not likely going to remember your commencement speaker or much of what I've said today, but remember this: Find what you do in life, where time disappears.

Find that thing that you do, whether its performing, which was an extraordinary performance we experienced today, you can tell the people that were singing and playing music, that that was something that they did where hours turned into minutes and minutes turned into seconds, until time itself disappears. Find that in your life. Find that challenge. Find that problem. Find that job. Find that relationship. Find that opportunity. Find that experience where time disappears. Where you're doing something and you don't know whether you've been doing it for an hour, or two hours, it doesn't matter. When you do that, you will find what you were meant to do. You will follow your passion. You've worked long and hard for this day. Enjoy it. Congratulations to the class of 2015 and congratulations to every family member who supported this class of 2015, for this commencement is not only the students' commencement, it's also your commencement as well. God bless you all.