Milton High School Graduation Speech

Governor Phil Scott

Thank you all very much, and congratulations to the class of 2017. It’s a privilege to be here in Milton
with you and your families to celebrate this important milestone.

You know, I always love coming to Milton, and I know that this high school produces great students and
hard workers. Luke Jackson, class of 2014, is an example. He worked hard on my campaign last summer
and is here to celebrate his brother, Devon, who is graduating today.

I also want to thank Liam Fersing for the invitation to be here. Liam was the very first student to reach
out to me on behalf of a graduating class. It was, literally, just about 30 minutes after I was sworn into
office. That’s some serious initiative, Liam. Good work.

***
Since today is a celebration of the graduates, I want to take a few minutes to speak directly to you.

And I’ll start by admitting that I cannot, for the life of me, remember who the commencement speaker
was when I graduated or, what their message was!

So, I’m really hoping that even if you don’t remember I was the speaker, you remember this message:
The best is yet to come.

***

Every single one of you has something you are willing to wake up early to get a head start on, or stay up
late to do the best you can. For some that may be athletics. For others, it may be acting, or music, or
dance, or any number of things.

For me it was industrial arts. I still love being able to design and build things, and learn by taking things
apart and putting them back together.

Now, I know some of you already know what you want to do, like study business, art or computer
science, serve our country, be an engineer, journalist or public servant – that sort of thing. That is
great.

And some of you probably aren’t quite sure what you want to do with the rest of your life. But, here’s a
little secret: I wasn’t sure at your age either and there are days where I’m still not sure, yet I turned out
okay (or at least I think I have).

My path wasn’t straight, and it wasn’t always easy. Yours won’t be either.

1
When I was 11, my Dad – who was a double amputee – passed away from wounds he sustained in the
World War II D-Day invasion, leaving my mom to raise 3 rather rambunctious boys. That made my
teachers – one in particular – really important to me.

My high school industrial arts teacher, Dick Flies, inspired me. So, I went to UVM to be a Tech Ed
teacher. I graduated and received my certification, but during my student-teaching experience, I decided
it just wasn’t right for me, so I went into business.

As a result of what I learned, I’ve carried this passion with me my whole life. Every challenge that comes
my way—political or otherwise—I try to address through a hands-on, problem-solving approach.

That hands-on approach is actually what led me to politics.

Twenty years ago, I didn’t have a political bone in my body. No interest in politics whatsoever. But as a
business owner I started to complain about what “they” were doing to my business. So, one day I
decided to stop complaining and step up to be part of the solution. I got involved, ran for the state
senate, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But I’m not here to share my autobiography. My point is this: You never know what hand you’re going to
be dealt, where your next experience will lead you, where you’re going to end up, or maybe even how
you’re going to get there.

And, that’s okay. That’s part of what makes life so interesting.

Along the way, you’re going to take some classes or a job that you won’t love. At times, you’ll be
apprehensive and not quite sure you’ve got what it takes. You might think there’s someone more
capable and you could even want to give up after life throws you a curve.

Here’s the thing. If you promise yourself you’ll never settle, never give up when things get tough, you
will find your way, and most importantly, you’ll find fulfillment.

And, remember what the hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t
take.”

So, if you aren’t satisfied with where you are or what you’re doing – take that shot! Even if you don’t get
what you’re shooting for, always be the person who wants it the most, gets to work first, and goes the
extra mile – because people notice that. I notice that!

***

And that brings me to the importance of teamwork.

Throughout my life, whether in business, politics or racing, I’ve been successful because of the quality of
my team.

Teams know how to work together, how to encourage and look out for each other, how to hold each
other accountable in constructive ways, and, ultimately, how to put the team ahead of
individual interests.

2
I’ve tried to build my teams adhering to what I call the Four C’s.

The first “C” is character – does the person have integrity? Are they honest, helpful and kind? If not,
they don’t get much further.

Second, are they competent – does the person have the skills needed to do the job, or the willingness
to learn and contribute to the team.

Third, do they have commitment – are they responsible? Do they invest themselves fully in the mission?
Do they have a good work ethic and a sense of duty to the team? Do they value results?

And the last “C” is chemistry, which is very difficult to define. Sometimes it’s just your gut telling you
whether they have it or not, but this “C” is key. Do they work well with others? Do they have the right
attitude? Are they enthusiastic, nimble and able to adapt to the needs of the team as a whole?

Because you can put all the smartest, most talented and hardest working people in the world
together, but they won’t be successful if there isn’t good chemistry.

Being able to support your teammates and work well with others is invaluable. That means listening to
all ideas with an open mind, being willing to compromise, and being willing to give others credit. This is
really important. When you’re committed to your team and its goals, you’re happy to do these
things because the shared objectives are always more important than your individual goals.

***

Well, that’s a lot to digest in one commencement speech. Or, as I mentioned in the beginning, it’s a lot
to forget.

But, here’s the thing. As a commencement speaker, I’m supposed to tell you this…

I’m supposed to tell you to remember to rely on the lessons you learned here, that the knowledge
you’ve gained will ensure great things are ahead, that you can overcome the trials and tribulations of
life, that you don’t have to settle, and teamwork works. I’m supposed to say these types of things
because it’s what we say to graduates.

But the fact is, these are all true – if – you continue to work to make them so.

If you never stop listening and learning, never stop exploring, never stop expanding your comfort
zone, and never stop finding enjoyment and fulfillment in your life, in your work and in your
relationships. Even when they are challenging.

If you do these things, I promise – the best is yet to come.

***

In closing, I’d like to humbly offer you a few words I try to live by:

3
• Always treat others the way you wish to be treated, even on Twitter. “Tweet others the way you
wish to be tweeted.”
• Understand how we act when we’re not in the spotlight is just as important as how we act when
we’re on center stage or on the field.
• Owning and learning from our mistakes builds character, mistakes are only weaknesses if we
don’t use them to make ourselves better.
• And finally, understand the importance of integrity because at the end of the day, it’s how most
of us will be remembered.

Congratulations, Milton High School Class of 2017. You probably won’t remember me, but you will
remember this school community. So go forward with confidence… because the best is yet to come.

Thank you.

###

4

Related Interests