Cal Ripken Jr. Gives Commencement Address at University of Maryland

Posted May 20, 2013

Twenty thousand faculty members, graduates, friends and family packed the Comcast Center in College Park on Sunday to take part in the University of Maryland’s 2013 Commencement activities. While the graduates were certainly the honored guests, they chose a real hometown hero to deliver their commencement address– former Baltimore Oriole and Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. The students chose Ripken due to his strong, lifetime commitment to philanthropy and public service.

Thunderous cheers and applause from the graduates echoed throughout the venue when Ripken was introduced and took the podium. Most were in elementary school when he was playing short stop, and later third base, for the Orioles before retiring in 2001, but he is an icon and remains a hero in their eyes. Many grads wore Orioles t-shirts or jerseys under their robes, and adorned their caps with an orange “O” to show their enthusiasm and respect.

As the consummate, professional sportsman that endeared Ripken to all of us, he spoke with gentle confidence as he addressed the graduates. “Life is a series of experiences. Pay close attention to how you react to them,“ he said. “Your failures can become your most valuable experiences.”

Ripken spoke about his days as a baseball rookie. He admitted that he had a lot of talent but a bad attitude about the ups and downs of the game. It wasn’t until he adjusted his attitude, and started thinking positively, that he played up to his true potential. “Attitude is important. Attitude is not talent. It must be developed,” he informed the graduates. “Are you positive or negative about life’s challenges?” he asked poignantly.

As he concluded the address, Ripken, also known as baseball’s “Ironman” for playing in 2,632 consecutive games, had one more piece of advice for the graduates. “You have to become a doer. Don’t talk about what you’re going to do—do it.”

Prior to the conclusion of the ceremony, Ripken was given an honorary doctorate. He now holds the title of Doctor of Public Service which was given to him by the university to acknowledge his contribution to the community and helping others.

Congratulations to the University of Maryland graduating class of 2013 and Dr. Cal Ripken, Jr.

Barbara Banks

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