Washington College Magazine

Rendell Tells Graduates: Do What You Love

  • News Image
    2013 Washington College Graduation
    Bill McAllen Photography
July 25, 2013
Despite gray skies and cool temperatures, Washington College’s outdoor Commencement ceremony went off without a hitch as 320 graduates celebrated their achievements, alumni and professors were recognized, and the former Pennsylvania governor, President Mitchell Reiss and General Washington himself proffered plenty of advice.

The College bestowed the honorary Doctor of Law degree on Edward B. Rendell, recognizing the political figure who, Reiss commented, “has known well the triumph of high achievement, as well as its corollary of loss, but his indomitable spirit has carried him always onward and serves as an example to all Americans.”

As a two-term mayor of Philadelphia, Rendell helped pull the city from a deep fiscal crisis into five years of budget surpluses, a turnaround The New York Times called one of the most “stunning in recent urban history.” After two terms as Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell went on to lead the Democratic Party as its national chairman, an honor he said would have been wondrous to his father, a first-generation American of Russian descent who instilled in his son a passionate advocacy for the Everyman.

Rendell shared his life’s wisdom on the secret to happiness and success. Spoiler alert: it does not involve dollar signs followed by six figures or more.  

“If you let our society define success, today it’s really two things: the accumulation of great material wealth and the accumulation of fame and celebrity,” he cautioned. “But in my career I’ve gotten to know some of the richest people in America and some of the most famous, and I can report to you that many of them are desperately unhappy.” 

Quoting Albert Schweitzer, Rendell said, “‘Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.’ If you love what you are doing, you’ll be successful every single day.” 

Rendell encouraged the graduates to pursue their big dreams sooner than later, and to “find some time to give back. … Carve just five hours a week out of your time and tutor a third grader who’s falling behind in reading. Five hours a week. It’s amazing what that will do for that third grader. But you know, it’s more amazing what it will do for you.”   

General Washington (as portrayed by Mount Vernon’s veteran Washington interpreter Dean Malissa) showed up to present the most prestigious student award, the medal named in his honor, and to offer some fatherly advice about living life with honor, integrity and virtue. The George Washington Medal went to Katherine Thornton (see page 16).

Last modified on Jul. 29th, 2013 at 9:52am by Kristen Hammond.