Choosing your road

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"Shut your eyes ... and think of somewhere ..." --Snow Patrol


I'd like to share with you a speech given by James E. Queen, group vice president-global engineering for General Motors, back in May to the new graduates of Lawrence Tech (Oh, to go back to the start of summer! It went by all too fast this year).

In his speech, entitled "The Journey Ahead: A Long and Winding Road of Boundaries and Choices," Queen laid out a vision that the assembled graduates might want to follow.

"Yours will be a journey down a long and winding road of smooth surfaces, pot holes, freeways, country roads, city streets and to a large extent, it‘s going to be a journey of boundaries and choices," he said. "How you define your boundaries and what you choose to involve yourself with, both personally and professionally, will certainly define the value of your contribution to your future employer, society and to a greater extent, the world."

Let‘s face it, said Queen, we live in a world filled with opportunities, yet it‘s fraught with insecurity, and arguably is simply not sustainable. "So when you‘re thinking of what you want to do with your lives, I urge you to set even broader national and global boundaries, in order to have a broader array of choices and to ultimately maximize the impact you have on the world," he said. "Put another way that most students of physics will understand, w = f x d, or for our less technical guests, work equals force times distance. Others have helped you get to where you are today. Now it‘s your turn to help others and for that matter the world in general."

Queen firmly believes that service is more important than self, adding that, in the total energy equivalent of life, only you can determine how much is potential energy and how much is kinetic or realized energy.

"So don't waste your potential - get kinetic," he said. "It's important not to get too upset when you hit a pothole or, quite frankly, [get] too full of yourself when you're on cruise control on a sunny day heading down a smooth surfaced freeway. There are going to be good days and bad days and you need to react to all of them with a large dose of humility. Trust me, the bad days won't be as disastrous as they seem and the good days won't be as grandiose as they appear."

He noted they'd be entering a world that has become increasingly global and interdependent; a world that is inherently good, but also one that can be bad and ugly, too. "In the future, change will come even more rapidly and the opportunities to contribute, quite simply, will be endless," he said.

"We need more technical people to plan and build infrastructures necessary to support emerging regions and communities with better roads, housing, food, transportation and health care systems," Queen added. "There are people who create problems and there are people who observe and talk about problems. They simply don‘t have the ability, tools or inclination to implement solutions. You are not those people. Be part of the solution -- for you have the tools to do more than just talk about 'how bad it is.'"

Good and strong words for everyone, I think.

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