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Words To Live By

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Notable Montanans offer some parting advice to the University of Montana graduating class of 2001

Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, Butte native, UM alum and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, now a reporter at the Oregonian in Portland, Ore.:

"Worry less about how much you'll make and more about how you'll spend your time. Time is the real currency. Jobs take us away from Montana, from our kids, from our books. So I think, to be happy and successful, you have to love what you do, the day-to-day business of it, the task itself. If you love what you do for a living, are passionate and committed, nothing will be beneath you; you won't resent investing time at work, you'll meet people who share that passion (I did, 15 years, three newspapers and two children later.) The enthusiasm, willingness to work and care that you'll naturally feel will you help you rise. You won't have to wait for retirement to start living.

It's like St. Catherine said, "All the way to heaven is heaven."

Eloise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and lead plaintiff in the largest lawsuit ever filed by American Indians against the federal government:

Graduation is such an important, special and happy time. I send my warmest congratulations to each one of you.

The thought I would like you to carry with you into the world can be summarized "One Voice - One Earth."

Native peoples are part of a long, long heritage in which the land is dear to our hearts. Our ancestors not only lived on the land, but revered it. The earth was an element of their spirituality. Today, as America grows more and more crowded, I still hear that quiet but powerful message: that we have been blessed with one earth - we get one shot at this - and we should do our best to care for it.

But, people often say, what can I do, as one person, about a big issue like the environment, or hunger, or violence, our you-name-it?

And my answer is, plenty.

We are fortunate to live in a country where one person can make a difference. I know, because that has been part of my own experience. The path to making a difference may not be straight and simple, but one voice can be heard. And that leads others to add their voices to the chorus.

In 1996, I became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to force changes in the way the government has mismanaged the individual Indian trust system for the past 120 years. With the help of a lot of good people, including a dedicated federal judge, we won the trial in Washington, D.C. The government appealed and we won that, too. Recently, the New York Times ran an editorial calling on the administration to settle our case. That's a long, and rather miraculous, way from a rural corner of northwestern Montana.

You may feel that one hour in your day doesn't really make a difference, but it does.

You may not believe now that one day, or one week, could alter your life, but it will.

Lives are not charted by calendar or committee; they are plotted by small, personal choices. Each of us has that voice within. The voice which inspires and leads us to choose not always the popular course. And we pay for our choices. "Courage," said Amelia Earhart, "is the price that life exacts for granting peace."

Joe Glenn, UM football coach:

Take good care of your health, always be a friend, and plastics.

Gloria Flora, former supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, who resigned from her position in November 1999 in protest of what she called an "anti-federal fervor" in Nevada, former supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, and now a Montana resident:

Years ago, in the movie "The Graduate," a well-meaning executive counseled the new grad: "I have one word for you son: plastics." In the mid '60s that probably was sound career counseling, but no one told him the rest of the story. That along with the wonder of plastics came some rather insidious alterations to our environment.

The miracles wrought from the industrial revolution and our fantastic technological advances have extracted a toll on our natural world. Delight with possessing stuff has grown into rabid consumption. We have clear evidence that the number of people is increasing and the ability of the natural environment to produce resources is declining. Lines trembling in opposite directions are putting a tight squeeze on our future.

So, graduates, I have one word for you: sustainability.

It's not a matter of environment versus economics. The environment is our economy. If our environment isn't healthy neither are we nor our environment. Now you join the rest of us in recognizing that concern for sustainability supersedes political and geographic boundaries.

I look forward to working with you.

Judy Martz, Montana's first female governor:

As you approach your next goal, I encourage each of you to hold fast to your dreams. Don't let anyone discourage you from striving after them. Your fervent pursuit and ultimate success will define you better than anything that others may say about you. Let your actions speak for you.

Dee McNamer, Montana native, Missoula author and UM professor:

Try to be curious more often than you try to be right.

Read a book a week. Eat your salad.

Jim Caron, co-founder of Missoula Children's Theatre and its international theatrical troupe:

Take your time. Don't lock into choices until you REALLY know what the choices are. Don't think for a second that you are through growing and changing. That's called death. It's a big varied, wonderful world out there that you (and I) have barely begun to discover. So don't invest totally in your career passion du jour until you put your toe in lots of ponds and test lots of water.

And when the proverbial window of opportunity opens, and your instinct, heart and brain (in that order) tell you it's right, leap on through. But, above all, don't confuse survival or even success with happiness.

Your work is part of who you are - not just what you are. It's a third of your life. Don't waste those hours on a job or a career that isn't interesting, challenging and fulfilling just to make a buck. If it's pushing a broom, that's fine. But never forget how important that clean floor is to the endeavors that take place on it.

Put the whole before the part.

Put service before self.

In short, live your life and do your job with gusto, substance, unselfishness and pride.

And on your way you will, in the words of my old friend Don Quixote, "add some measure of grace to the world."

And that's a good thing.

Edith Craig, the Butte grandmother who saved a Denmark neighborhood by taking legal steps to kick neo-nazis out of a house she discovered was her inheritance:

I went into this whole thing with the idea that I could help these people. As it turned out, I learned something.

I learned not to take things for granted. These kinds of things are happening everywhere, and I learned that we have to care about that.

I found I'm not going to be so judgmental or hold grudges. I thought about those people who for every single night stood outside the house protesting the Nazis. I know how it gets here in Montana, with all the cold and wet; they have that, too, yet stood out there for 817 nights. I thought: If they can go and do that, in that kind of weather, well I certainly could do something for them.

When these kinds of things happen, don't turn your back and look the other way. No one is better than anyone else, but we are all as good as each other.

To graduates, in particular, I say: You're going to have to look at the world exactly as it is. But you have to look at it with both eyes. Accept people for what they are and give everybody a chance. Be honest and look people in the eye. One person can make a difference. You will find as you go along, you will have support and find people who believe as you do and think the same way and feel the same way. I don't know why that wouldn't work.

Barbara Evans, longtime Missoula County Commissioner:

We have a choice, every day, regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. You are in charge of your attitudes.

William James said that "the greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude."

External circumstances, material circumstances, of life are often beyond our control, but they often matter less than we think. We all know many people who complain that the glass is half empty. We really need to focus on the positive - that the glass is half full, not half empty.

A good attitude and a bad attitude are really just two different ways of looking at the same situation. Problems are only opportunities in work clothes. The more adversity you face, the more positive you have to be.

Happiness doesn't depend on what we have, but it does depend on how we feel toward what we have. We can be happy with little and miserable with much - money isn't the measure of success! Whatever you decide to do, your fate is in your own hands.

You are very fortunate. You have an education, you live in a wonderful place, and you now have opportunities that are not available to everyone. This is your time - the 21st century. The millennium. It is yours to shape and master. What a wonderful and exciting challenge.

Keep a smile on your face and in your heart, even when it hurts. The world is a looking glass that gives back the reflection of your own soul. You need to understand that the secret of correcting the attitude of others is to have a positive attitude yourself.

Craig Johnson, half of Z-100's Craig and Al radio personalities:

Broadcasting thoughts

1. There are very few things that are "black and white" in this world but there is an amazing number of shades of gray.

2. One person can make a difference if it's the right person and the right cause. Like the woman in the Missoulian story: "Butte Woman Takes House Away From Neo-Nazis in the Netherlands."

3. It's 10 times easier to "stay in shape" than to "get in shape."

4. The world is a messy place.

5. Keep those tattoos below the neckline and above the wrist line. A guy just never knows!

Allen Kay, Z-100's other half of Craig and Al:

Bits of wizened wisdom:

Don't be startled by those student loan payments. Make it your goal to some day make that much in monthly salary.

Welcome to the real world;, now the bills are yours. Signed Mom and Dad.

No problem is too complicated if you attempt to solve it simply.

You learn more listening.

If you plan on retiring in Montana, plan to make your fortune elsewhere.

Leave Montana for awhile. There's a lot of world out there; go see it.

Monte Dolack, Missoula, nationally known artist:

The transition from a student's hopes and dreams to finding a career occupation can be fraught with anxiety. The fear of the "real" or nonacademic world can be compounded by job uncertainty and often fueled by the heavy weight of unpaid student loans.

My field is art. The job market of 1974 in Missoula, Montana, was not bursting with opportunities in the arts. Jobs for the fine artists, designers or craftsmen were definitely lacking, and galleries were few and far between. One of the more popular options for an art graduate was a one-way ticket out of town to a major city - somewhere out there. But I wanted to stay in Missoula, or at least in the area.

My studies at UM were in painting, ceramics, sculpture and printmaking. My work-study jobs had been divided between brochure covers for information services and as artist for the Kaimin and the yearbook. Don Kludt and his staff at the UM print shop gave me an unofficial but valuable course in adapting and preparing artwork for the printing press. Art school encouraged creativity but offered very little in the curriculum concerning practical application of art and design ability.

I think it is important to remain open minded in finding ways to make your training apply to your circumstances. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities. I applied what I had learned to my situation in Missoula by designing my own business card, renting an inexpensive studio at an artist's co-op (with like-minded artist friends) and going into the fine art and graphic design business.

Ira Byock, M.D., co-founder of the Missoula Demonstration Project, research professor of philosophy at UM and author of "Dying Well":

I keep a quote from E.B. White above my desk.

If the world were merely seductive,

that would be easy. If it were merely challenging,

That would be no problem.

But I arise in the morning torn between

a desire to improve the world,

And a desire to enjoy the world.

This makes it hard to plan the day.

We now know that creation is not an event that solely occurred in the past.

Astrophysicists have proven that the universe continues to expand. The world is continuing to unfold and we are part of its ongoing creation.

Live life creatively. Whether you are at work or play - building a playground, performing surgery or sitting with your feet in a stream and your mind in contemplation - invest your life with love and passion. The problemless life is pure fiction and fantasy. Real life is full of sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure. Live it all!

Robin Selvig, UM Lady Griz basketball coach:

Take pride in doing your best at whatever your occupation. I believe the most successful people are the ones who strive to be the best at whatever they are undertaking. If you're a waiter, be the best waiter; if you're a teacher, be the best teacher. You will get ahead if people see that you take pride in your job, whatever it is.

Get involved in your community. One thing Montana is still blessed with is a real sense of community. People helping others. People working together to solve problems. It's what is missing in many parts of our country today. If you leave Montana, take it with you, if you stay, keep it strong.

If you want things to be different, get involved. Nothing positive comes from griping about what we don't like. Be a doer, not a talker - in politics, schools, churches, or your community in general.

Your opportunities and challenges are immense. Don't be disappointed if you fail in certain endeavors. Every successful person has failed many times. Your ability to never give up when disappointed will make you succeed.

Find the good in every situation. Count your blessings everyday. One of my favorite quotes, author unknown, is "I had no shoes and I complained until I met a man who had no feet."

Doug Chase, Missoula County sheriff:

To me, the final determination made on one's life is his or her reputation; you will be remembered by how you treated people. You can get the job done and still be decent. You don't have to run roughshod or be autocratic.

If I go down remembered as being fair and honest and respectful and I listened and showed that I cared, then I will satisfy what I believe are my true desires and my reputation. You don't want to live and think nobody cared.

Early on in my career I was told police officers don't apologize. That's a bunch of b-crap. That's wrong. You make a mistake, you do everything you can correct that.

I forgot my family, I put my career first, and I wish I could get back the first 10 years of my career. Who knows why my wife tolerated it, and I've done a hell of a lot of catch-up with my kids, and that never should have occurred.

With new recruits I tell them: Don't let me catch you putting career ahead of your family.

Without your family, most of us would be nothing. I would not be where I am today.

Visit with one another, support each other and don't let your kids play T-ball without you being there. Those are the best times of your lives. You have all the time to work on your careers, but family can go in nothing flat.

There is nothing like the career of being a husband or father or grandpa or grandmother - there's nothing like it, and nothing better.

Whatever group you get into, workwise, treat them like family.

For heaven's sake, graduates, if your parents played a big part in your life, tell themz thanks and how much you love them. Because parents are gone way too soon.

They give you character, work ethic, a foundation to respect others rights. Then they're gone and you haven't really told them how much you appreciated them.

Betsy Duerksen, UM Lady Griz soccer coach:

Graduating from college, especially, can be scary because for your whole life everything has been planned for you. Suddenly there's this big world out there and you may not be sure how to go about achieving your dreams.

Expect that the first couple of years out of college things may be bumpy as you try to find your niche. Consider that the life in front of you is this very valuable million dollars: How do you want to spend it? You have so much to offer, try to make the most of it.

I always have been a fan of John Wooden (former UCLA basketball coach): "Success is the peace of mind knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming."

It's not about being the best, but reaching your potential.

I'm in the business of growing people. It is easy to be a good person and a good soccer player when the going is easy. The true measure of someone's character is when times are rough. How do you respond? Life is full of highs and lows. Try to be a good person and good athlete during the low times. And stick together through the low times. Use each other for support.

To me that's what community is about. Rising to the occasion when things aren't so good and taking care of each other when things aren't so good, like you would in a family.

Dave Dickenson, Griz quarterback who led UM's 1996 team to a national championship, played football in Canada and now, six years later, plays in the NFL:

What I've learned is patience. Things aren't always going to go your way. I try to figure out where I want to go, what I want to do, and then mentally outline a plan to accomplished that.

Coming out of Canada - I was successful there, I had a house, everything was comfortable and familiar, and I had to decide if I wanted to take on a challenge.

I'm starting now at the bottom. But I'm here because I've asked myself: What would I regret? I know I'd regret not pushing myself to be better - a better player and a better person.

You have to have the self-confidence to know you can accomplish your goal; be your No. 1 fan. If you believe in that, that's the first step in anything.

I've learned too, that sometimes you don't have to take big steps to be successful. If I work hard and get close, that's a success.

Success, a lot of times, is what other people are telling you - it's how THEY define you. More than anything, it is what YOU want to accomplish. … If you feel you don't give your best effort, you come up empty, and that's not a good feeling.

Everyone does have limits. It's not always going to turn out the way you want. If it doesn't, find another way.

I wanted to be in the NFL and it didn't happen. But I thought if I kept playing and improving, maybe I'd get there.

It took me six years to get a tryout, and that turned out for the best. Six years ago I would never have been able to play.

Now, I'm ready.

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