Gail Miller - UVU Commencement
Culture Features Miller Family Message September 2020

Life is an Educational Journey

Miller Family Message by Gail Miller –

In August, it was my privilege to be the commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2020 at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. Although it’s an understatement to say 2020 has been a challenging year, I was pleased to see and feel the energy and experience the resiliency of these students.  They were proud of their accomplishments and ready to meet the challenges facing them as they move into a new chapter of their lives.

I shared with them some of my own reflections about 2020 and the lessons that have been beneficial to me during my life’s journey. I hope these lessons might be useful to you as well. 

First: Listen and Learn

I’ve always been committed to the importance of education. I love learning and wish I had had a formal education, but I didn’t have that opportunity. My education was earned the hard way – on the job—mostly as a wife and mother, navigating life’s experiences one day at a time. And then, at 65, when most people are retiring, I stepped into a business role in our company and also began serving in various roles in the community where I felt I could add value. 

Life is an educational journey. There won’t be a finite point in time when you’ll be able to say you are finished learning. Even Michelangelo, at the age of 87, said, “I am still learning.”  

As we’ve all experienced in 2020, we are battling a new pandemic with more questions than answers. We’re listening and learning about social justice and the opportunity to create needed change. We’re embarking on the fourth industrial revolution, worldwide digitization. And we’re becoming better stewards of our planet.   

It’s important that you continue to listen, to question, to learn, and then, to act. As Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” 

Learn something new every day. Teach what you know to others, make the world a better place. Be a student, be a teacher, be a leader! 

Second: Courage vs. Fear

When Larry passed away after 44 years of marriage, I had a difficult decision to make. Should I sell our business, or should I roll up my sleeves and step into a new role? Our business was then and is still a platform to enrich lives: to provide good jobs and opportunities for our employees, to provide memorable experiences for our customers, and to make our communities better.  

Wanting to continue that legacy, I decided to take a deep breath, gather my courage, and take on a new role. I had learned a lot from Larry over the years, and I had been involved in nearly all the business decisions, but I had never held an actual job in our company, let alone run a business. Would I have the credibility to do what I felt I needed to do? Would I be accepted?

It was courage that allowed me to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to. I was smart, and what I didn’t know, I could learn. I knew how to work hard, and I was blessed with common sense. I’ve been in this new role for 11 years now, and our company is still growing and thriving. If you let it, courage will always triumph over fear and open doors you never dreamed of before. 

Third: Respect

“No one wins when respect goes away.” 

Whether you’re competing on a basketball court, debating public policy, or solving some of our most complicated societal issues, it is ok to disagree–without being disagreeable. Debate and differences of opinion are healthy and helpful—even encouraged. What we can’t ever afford to support is racism, hate-speech, intolerance, and bullying. 

When we look at others as individuals worthy of our time and respect, we’ll have the opportunity and the ability to influence others, to inspire change, and to innovate. 

I want to encourage you to channel your courage and use your voices to speak up and speak out. When you see something wrong, say something. Become an ally. Insist on better behavior. Use your platform and sphere of influence to emulate the change you hope to see. It will be time well spent.

Fourth: Service

Over the course of my lifetime, I have learned that serving others is essential to true happiness. As an unexpected reward, I’ve also found that whenever I have served someone, I’ve learned to love them.

There are many forms of service. If you have a serving heart, you will never lack for opportunities to serve. If you’re not familiar with serving others, start small and build up to greater opportunities. 

Right now, our nation is focused on social justice, equality, fairness, and inclusion. To break through systemic issues, our efforts and commitments must be sustainable. Now is the time to step out of yourselves and work to serve others.  

This year is one for the history books. It’s been frustrating, surreal, life-altering, educational, and even inspiring. While no one could have predicted the unprecedented events that have happened, we also didn’t recognize the strength, wisdom, and tenacity we would deploy to not only cope but also to thrive!

I have found this Leslie Dwight statement enlightening:

What if 2020 isn’t cancelled?
What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?
A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw –
that it finally forces us to grow.
A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us
from our ignorant slumber.
A year we finally accept the need for change.
Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.
A year we finally band together, instead of
pushing each other further apart.
2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather
the most important year of them all.

The year 2020 might be the most important of all; the one we’ve been waiting for; the year we make permanent changes; the year we build important bridges. I believe you’ll find, “The quality of your life will be in direct proportion to the quality of the decisions you make.”

One Comment

  1. Margaret Goff

    I am always inspired by Gail. She is a wonderful person

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