"The Keepers"

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It’s not every day that a trucker gets to give a college commencement address and even though he’s a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), Max Fuller – chairman & CEO of billion-dollar trucking conglomerate U.S. Xpress Enterprises – found himself more than a little surprised by opportunity to be the school’s 2012 commencement speaker.

“Sitting in your spot back in 1975, I never dreamed I’d ever own a company with 1,000 employees – much less the 11,000 we have at U.S. Xpress today,” Fuller (on the right in the photo at right) said in his 11-minute speech (which you can view by clicking here) in UTC’s Arena before a crowd estimated at 10,000.

“I never dreamed I’d one day be running one of the largest transportation companies in North America; I never dreamed I’d be making a difference in my chosen profession of transportation,” Fuller added. “Each one of you has that same opportunity; to take the knowledge that you’ve learned here and go out in the world and make a difference.”

One thing Fuller stressed to the assembled graduates centered on them becoming what he calls “The Keepers” in today’s workforce.

“’The Keepers’ are those who don’t view a job as just a way to get a paycheck; they are there to make a difference in the world,” he explained. “Regardless of what industry or profession you enter, don’t just go for the money – go to make a difference. Because if you have passion for what you do and you strive to make a difference, not only will you be successful, you’ll feel as though you’re being paid for something that doesn’t feel like work.”

Fuller also encouraged UTC’s to take a more positive view of the economic times they are entering. “In 1975, when I graduated, we were in a recession then as well, with unemployment at 9%, sort of where we are today,” he pointed out. “The difference is, back then, we were just entering what would become a five year recession, whereas now our economy is recovering, though recovering slowly.”

He also noted that, over the next five to 10 years, the “baby boom” generation will begin to retire and that in turn will open up a lot of key positions across numerous industries that “Keepers” can easily step into. “You’ve taken the first critical step: getting an education,” Fuller told UTC’s 2012 graduating class. “Now you must take what you’ve learned and go out and make a difference; that will also keep you a step ahead of the other job seekers out there.” 

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