Muhtar Kent challenged the class of 2014 with commencement addresses at two of the nation’s most respected universities. He began on May 3 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, next-door neighbor of Coke’s Atlanta headquarters, and continued on May 17 with remarks at Colorado State University in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains alongside Governor John Hickenlooper.
Calling millennials the “most engaged, altruistic, informed, technically advanced and entrepreneurial” generation in history, Coke’s chairman and CEO stressed the unprecedented opportunity ahead and urged the class to take full advantage of their unique place in history.
“Never before has a generation had more promise, potential or power to change the world for the better,” he told the graduates. “I believe in you… you have the head and the heart (to go far).”
Here are 10 pieces of advice Kent shared with the class of 2014:
1. Nothing is more important than personal relationships. “Never eat alone, never stop making new friendships, and never stop nurturing those you have.”
2. Stay humble. “Carry your own bags, literally and metaphorically.”
3. Remember that one-time success can be a fluke. “Repeating success proves your worth.”
4. Build an abiding respect for cash. “Keep some on you at all times. Never let money become an abstraction.”
5. Learn something new every day.
6. Keep growing. “Everyone needs growth: nations, companies, individuals. You’re either growing or you are losing ground. There’s no standing still.”
7. Take care of the job at hand. “The next one will take care of itself.”
8. Reject doubt, fear and cynicism. “All three are corrosive. Instead, whatever you do, do with all you have. That will make all the difference.”
9. Remember that a commencement is not an ending, but a beginning. “The door to the future is swung wide before you. Step through with confidence and purpose.”
10. There’s no substitute for excellence and quality. “Pursue both relentlessly.”
Kent urged the graduates never to take for granted the knowledge they’ve gained and the experiences they’ve shared during their college years. “There are many young people who are just as smart and intelligent as you who won’t get this opportunity,” he added, stressing that their degrees carry with them a responsibility to give back.
Kent concluded by reiterating his confidence in the class of 2014.
“The world is counting on you to deliver,” he said, “And I have every confidence you’ll do so.