Remarks by Mark Baum
153rd Commencement
SUNY Oswego School of Business and School of Communication, Media and the Arts



Mark Baum, commencement speaker 2014, schools of Business and of Communication,Media and the ArtsGOOD AFTERNOON.  THANK YOU PRESIDENT STANLEY AND, WELCOME TO ALL; DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, PROFESSORS, PARENTS AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – YOU - THE CLASS OF 2014!

I ONCE SAT RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING,
ALTHOUGH,  NOT IN THIS EXTRAORDINARY CAMPUS CENTER …
IMPATIENTLY WAITING FOR THE COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER TO FINISH…AND TO MAKE MY PARENTS PROUD WHEN I CROSSED THE STAGE,  THAT I WAS - ACTUALLY GRADUATING. 
BUT, I WAS TRULY – REALLY - LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT GREAT GRADUATION PARTY. 

TODAY, MANY OF YOU, LIKE I DID, SEE THIS AS THE MOMENT THAT PLACES A FINAL - AND MY GUESS A SOMEWHAT UNWELCOME END – TO WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE MOST FUN-FILLED YEARS OF YOUR LIVES. 

TRUST ME – I KNOW… IN FACT, I AM GEARING UP FOR JUST ONE MORE BRIDGE STREET RUN (NOTWITHSTANDING THE OSWEGO CITY COUNCIL’S RECENT DECISION).

COMMENCEMENT SPEAKERS ARE GENERALLY OBLIGED TO SHARE SOME OF THEIR LIFE’S WISDOM WITH YOU.
SO…. FOLLOWING THE OFFICIAL TWENTY FIRST CENTURY COLLEGE COMMENCMENT SPEAKER PLAYBOOK … I WILL SHARE SOME OF MY THOUGHTS ON THE PATHWAY TO SUCCESS; WHICH FOR ME HAS MEANT A RESPECTED PROFESSIONAL CAREER, A RICH AND REWARDING FAMILY LIFE AND AN ABIDING PASSION FOR MY AVOCATIONS.  I HAVE PURSUED ALL THIS, AND MORE …
- FULLY ARMED WITH MY BACHELORS DEGREE FROM OSWEGO.

SO, FOR THOSE OF YOU LOOKING DOWN, AND MAKING GOOD USE OF YOUR SMART PHONES:  POSTING SELFIES ON FACEBOOK, TWEETING, CHECKING OUT THE LATEST ON PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, THE JUICY BITS ON TUMBLR, OR HEAVENS TO BETSY – SNAPCHAT – LOOK UP!  SIT UP!  LOOK AROUND!  THIS IS THE REAL WORLD – AND, OUT THERE, THE NATURAL WORLD – ITS THREE DIMENSIONAL.  SO, NEVER MISTAKE A TWEET FOR A TOUCH – OR A POST FOR A PERSON. THE PILES OF SNOW ON THE GROUND,  THE BEAUTIFUL SUNSETS ON LAKE ONTARIO; THESE ARE THE PHYSICAL EMBODIEMENTS THAT PRE-EMINANTLY CHARACTERIZE YOUR EXPERIENCE AT SUNY OSWEGO. AND,  REST ASSURED, THE RELATIONSHIPS YOU DEVELOP – FACE-TO-FACE – WILL HOLD YOU IN GOOD STEAD – THROUGHOUT YOUR LIVES! I MUST ADMIT TO BEING A LITTLE BIASED – TOWARD THE WORLD “OUTSIDE” – RATHER THAN THE WORLD “INSIDE” A 5 INCH SCREEN, OR EVEN A 15 OR 20 INCH MONITOR.  THAT’S BECAUSE …

MY THOUGHTS AND OUTLOOK ARE ALSO GLEANED FROM A LIFETIME OF CLIMBING MOUNTAINS, FIGURATIVELY AND LITERALLY, PHYSICALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY, AND PERSONALLY WITH A ZEAL THAT HAS, AT TIMES, BORDERED ON OBSESSION, ALBEIT A HEALTHY ONE.

MOUNTAINS ARE A COMPELLING METAPHOR FOR A LIFE… YOUR LIFE.  MOUNTAINS EXPOSE AND PUNISH WEAKNESSES, THEY DON’T FORGIVE THEM. 
THEY REWARD HONEST ASSESMENTS, PREPARATION, OPENESS, FLEXIBILITY, WILL, AND SKILL. 

MOUNTAINEERS ARE AN INTERESTING GROUP.  THE PURSUIT IS A NICHE, A SUB-CULTURE OF THE LARGER OUTDOOR SPORTING COMMUNITY. IT IS A PLACE WHERE FRIENDSHIPS ARE ESTABLISHED AND PARTNERSHIPS ARE FORGED, AND IT IS NOT HARD TO MEET OR INDEED, CLIMB WITH YOUR HEROES.  CLIMBERS ARE DEDICATED AND FOCUSED AND WHETHER SOMEONE CLIMBS SOLO OR IN COLLABORATION WITH “ALPINE TEAMS”  THEY EMBODY THE QUALITIES THEY NEED TO SUCCEED, SIMILAR TO THE EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD HERE IN OSWEGO.

YOU CAN AND WILL SUMMIT SOME OF THE PEAKS BY YOURSELF, CARRYING YOUR OWN PACK.  THOSE PACKS, YOU BELIEVE YOU NEED TO SUCCEED, FILLED WITH THE GEAR YOU THINK YOU NEED TO SUCCEED, OR ARE TOO NAÏVE, INEXPERIENCED, AFRAID OR JUST FORGET TO LEAVE BEHIND. IN THOSE SITUATIONS, YOU CAN AND WILL PUSH THROUGH YOUR OWN INDIVIDUAL PAINS, FEARS, WEAKNESSES, AND SHORTCOMINGS, TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS.

AND SOMETIMES, YOU CAN AND WILL CLIMB IN TEAMS – IN ALPINISM WE CALL IT, “THE BROTHERHOOD – OR SISTERHOOD - OF THE ROPE.”  PICK YOUR SUMMIT TEAM CAREFULLY.  KEEP YOUR FAMILY CLOSE. EXPAND UPON THE NETWORKS YOU HAVE DEVELOPED HERE AT OSWEGO. UTILIZE THE PHYSICAL MARKETPLACE AND DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT TO MAKE CONNECTIONS AND FORM COALITIONS OF THE WILLING.  DO NOT BE OVERLY SENTIMENTAL OR UNREALISTIC.  FANTASIES BRING PEOPLE TO TALL MOUNTAINS, BUT NOT TO THEIR HIGHEST REACHES.

WHETHER YOU GO SOLO OR IN A TEAM, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU NEED FROM OTHER PEOPLE AND, OF COURSE, WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER AS WELL. 

FORTUNATELY, THERE ARE MARKERS ALONG THE WAY.  IN MOUNTAINEERING, A VERY NARROW, OFTEN OVERLOOKED AND – IN TRUTH – QUITE SMALL PART OF THE QUEST IS – THE BUILDING OF CAIRNS. FOR THOSE OF YOU LOOKING AT ME QUIZICALLY, YOU NOW HAVE MY PERMISSION TO USE YOUR SMART PHONES TO CHECK OUT CAIRNS ON WIKKOPEDIA.

THE WORD CAIRNS IS OF GAELIC ORIGIN AND MEANS LITERALLY, “A HEAP OF STONES”. 
IN MOUNTAINEERING CAIRNS ARE THE ARRANGEMENT OF STONES YOU OFTEN FIND ON A PATH OR TRAIL’S EDGE OR AT A SUMMIT POINT.  CAIRNS ARE A WAY OF LEAVING A MARK ON THE MOUNTAIN.  ONE FASHIONED FROM THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MOUNTAIN ITSELF … BITS OF LOOSE ROCK ASSEMBLED INTO A MESSAGE.

CLIMBERS USE CAIRNS IN MANY WAYS.

THEY ACT AS LANDMARKS, SO THAT A TRAIL ONCE WALKED CAN BE MORE EASILY REMEMBERED BY OTHER CLIMBERS – SOMETIMES WARNING OF DANGERS AHEAD - BUT ALWAYS POINTING THE WAY FORWARD.

ON THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN CAIRNS OFTEN SHELTER IMPORTANT, DETAILED HISTORICAL RECORDS OF YOUR CLIMB AND THE CLIMBERS THAT HAVE COME BEFORE YOU.

CAIRNS MEMORIALIZE AND MARK BOTH PASSAGE AND PRESENCE.  A CAPSULE OF THE CONTINUITY THAT BINDS THE COMMUNITY OF CLIMBERS … OVER TIME … OVER GENERATIONS … IN PERPETUITY.  PUT THIS INTO THE CONTEXT OF YOUR LIVES: THE JOURNEYS YOU WILL TAKE, THE TIES THAT BIND YOU TO OTHERS, AND YOUR OWN LEGACIES, WHICH YOU WILL UNDOUBTEDLY LEAVE FOR STILL OTHERS TO FOLLOW.

CAIRNS DON’T STEAL FROM A MOUNTAIN; THEY BORROW FROM IT WITH RESPECT.  THEY DON’T DISFIGURE THE ROCK WITH GRAFFITTI OR CHIP IT OUT FOR A SOUVENIR.  SOME OF YOU MAY BE FAMILIAR WITH, OR EVEN PRACTICE THE HABIT OF “LEAVE NO TRACE”.  REMEMBER TO LEAVE YOUR CAMPSITE, YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, YOUR CORNER OF THE WORLD – OR INDEED – THE WHOLE WORLD – A LITTLE BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT.  TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES, TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILIES, TAKE CARE OF ONE ANOTHER.

I CAN’T STAND HERE BEFORE YOU AND GIVE YOU THE ROPES, THE CRAMPONS, THE ICE AXES, OR THE PROFESSIONAL TOOLS YOU WILL NEED TO CONQUER ALL THE CHALLENGES THAT LIE BEFORE YOU.  NOR CAN I OFFER FALSE HOPE FOR A FALSE SUMMIT OR FUTURE NONE OF US CAN PREDICT.  I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MOUNTAINS YOU WILL CLIMB ONCE YOU LEAVE THIS SAFE AND PROTECTED PLACE –  THE PLACE I CALL OSWEGO BASE CAMP.

BUT I CAN TELL YOU THIS.

THERE WILL BE MOUNTAINS AHEAD.  WHETHER AND HOW YOU SCALE THEIR FLANKS WILL BE LARGELY UP TO YOU.

AS YOU CLIMB REMEMBER TO PAY ATTENTION TO ALL THE SIGNS – THE CAIRNS – THAT THOSE WHO HAVE PRECEEDED HAVE LEFT FOR YOU.  FROM YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, COUNSELORS, PROFESSORS, AND OTHERS ALONG THE WAY.  DO NOT DISREGARD THEM, BECAUSE THEY ARE MESSAGES FROM THOSE WHO HAVE TRAVELED THE SAME PATH BEFORE YOU –  AND,THEY HAVE MOVED ON AND AHEAD.

AND NEVER … NEVER FORGET TO TAKE A FEW MOMENTS TO BUILD YOUR OWN CAIRNS – FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO WILL FOLLOW YOU AND OUT OF RESPECT FOR YOURSELF AND HOW FAR YOU HAVE COME.  HELP MARK THE PATH FOR THE NEXT TEAM OF OSWEGO GRADUATES, PAY IT FORWARD FOR THE GREEN AND GOLD. STAY ENGAGED AND A PART OF THIS UNIQUE PLACE THAT HAS PROVIDED SO MUCH TO AND FOR, SO MANY OF US.

OF COURSE, THESE ARE CHALLENGING TIMES.  THE WORLD HAS PLENTY OF MOUNTAINS TO CLIMB AND SUMMITS TO REACH.  AND, THERE ARE HAZARDS AND PITFALLS ALONG THE WAY.  BUT, IT IS WAITING FOR A NEW GENERATION OF WISE AND PREPARED CLIMBERS.  YOU ALL HAVE IT IN YOU TO MAKE A MARK THAT WILL LAST FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

SO GO OUT.
CLIMB YOUR MOUNTAINS.
DARE TO REALIZE YOUR DREAMS AND REACH YOUR SUMMITS
AND ALONG THE WAY …

REMEMBER TO STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND ENJOY EVERY MOMENT … IN THE PRESENT, BECAUSE THEY CAN BE FLEETING AND WHEN THEY ARE OVER, THEY ARE GONE FOREVER.

FOUR OR MORE YEARS AGO YOU BEGAN A JOURNEY THAT WILL END TODAY.
EVEN MORE EXCITING JOURNEYS LIE AHEAD.

JUST ONE MORE THING. A RENOWNED CLIMBER AND FILM CINEMATOGRAPHER ONCE GAVE ME A SIMPLE BUT PROFOUND PIECE OF ADVICE THAT I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU TODAY. HE SAID, “SOMETIMES TO SEE THE PATH, YOU HAVE TO GET OFF THE PATH”!

HE MEANT THAT WORK – AND LIFE – SOMETIMES MEANDOR. YOUR ROUTE TO THE SUMMITS OF YOUR DREAMS WILL NOT NECESSARILY BE A STRAIGHT LINE.  “SOMETIMES TO SEE THE PATH, YOU HAVE TO GET OFF THE PATH”. THAT’S OK: STAY REAL, FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND YOUR HEAD, AND,  WHEN YOU GET TO THE TOP, I ASSURE YOU THE VIEW WILL BE SPECTACULAR!
GOOD LUCK.  GOOD CLIMBING.  THANK YOU AND CONGRATULATIONS!

(Posted: May 17, 2014)

Tags: speaker, school of communication media and the arts, school of business, mark baum, graduation, commencement