Transcript of Bud Selig's address
Ladies and gentlemen, about to be graduates — I want to thank you for inviting me here today. It is a great honor and a privilege for me to share you graduation day with you, especially here in Madison.
As some of you may know, I am a fellow alumnus of this great university. I have wonderful memories of my years here, and they remain fresh and vivid to this day. It seems like just a short while ago that I sat here in June 1956 on my graduation day, and I dreamed of what the future would hold for me.
As you move from this beautiful campus and great educational institution, you will discover that few days in your life are as important, as meaningful and as symbolic as this one. This is a moment in your lives of significant change and of passage – of passage into the future, of passage into a realm of responsibility and of possibility.
In a more orderly world, this passage would be made with ease and with great success. Good jobs and bright futures would be yours for the asking. But as you know, we are living in the most difficult economic environment since the Great Depression and these are difficult and uncertain times. But your education has prepared you with the knowledge and provided you with the character to confront these issues with considerable hope and faith.
Do not be fearful of these times and do not be fearful of the future. Looking back on my graduation day so many years ago, it seems as the world in those days was tranquil. Those were the 50s – the days of Ike and Elvis. They were the days when our football team excelled and its star was the great All-American Alan Ameche, who was known as “The Horse.”
All was quiet in those days, all was orderly, and all was peaceful, or so it seemed. But there was great unrest. They were also the days of the Cold War, bomb shelters, McCarthyism and Sputnik. Although our nation’s economy already was well into its post World War II boom, the beneficiaries of that growing economy were men, not women. Most disturbingly, those so-called tranquil 1950s were also the days of hatred, fear, inequality and segregation for a large segment of America’s population. The world was a far different place than it is today.
Each generation faces its own unique set of challenges. It is up to you – to each one of you – to meet those challenges and set your own course for the future
In baseball, as in life — and I believe baseball is a metaphor for life – hope and faith are critical to success. Take advantage of these difficult times, because if you have hope and faith, if you are smart and tenacious and dedicated and willing to sacrifice, you can make a difference and make this a better world. And don’t be afraid of failure.
I often take comfort in the words of advice that Teddy Roosevelt gave to his son in 1904. The president said:
“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose vision is marred by dust and sweat and tears; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievements; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while doing so greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
I believe in dreams. I believe the individual should dream big dreams, limitless dreams. because only then can you reach your full potential.
As the great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “You see things and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and I say, ‘Why not?’”
As a young boy growing up in Milwaukee, my hero was the great Joe DiMaggio and my dream was to emulate Joe and become the next great New York Yankee centerfielder. Well, that was a big dream – I’ll admit that. Big as they come. But unfortunately that dream came to a crashing end rather early in my life. You see, I couldn’t hit a curve ball and I still can’t.
But that did not diminish my love for the game, nor did it end my dream of living a baseball life.
My wife Sue always tells me that had she attended the University of Wisconsin, our relationship would never have flourished, because she would’ve been involved in the party scene and I was always in the library. I spent a great deal of time in the library stacks studying for my classes, but I found time to read out of town newspapers and read up on what sport writers were saying and writing about baseball. I checked out books and articles about baseball commissioners. In those days there were only three – Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Happy Chandler, who succeeded Landis, and Ford Frick, who was the commissioner at the time.
When I first came here to the university, I believed I was going to be a history professor. Even though I had a great love and passion for the game of baseball and dreamed of a baseball life, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become baseball commissioner.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”
This is exactly what I did. I dared to live my dream. As a student here, I had no idea how I was going to make that happen, or frankly what a baseball life was, but I knew if I were to live my dream, I had to be focused and I had to be resolute and I had to be ready and willing to take a chance if any opportunity ever presented itself. Several years later that opportunity amazingly did present itself.
The Milwaukee Braves stunningly left Milwaukee and moved to Atlanta in 1965. I was heartsick and I made it my mission as a young 30-year-old to bring big league baseball back to Milwaukee. The odds were clearly stacked against me. People told me at the time, “It’s an insurmountable task – you’ll never succeed.”
Nonetheless, I began knocking on the doors of Major League Baseball owners and showing up at meetings. I just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Just eight days before the 1970 season a bankruptcy court awarded the Seattle franchise to Milwaukee and it became the Milwaukee Brewers, and my hometown was back in the major leagues.
I was fortunate – very fortunate – to have fulfilled the dream of my lifetime. In the days afterwards, I often thought back to my days here at the university in the library stacks, dreaming about a life in baseball and amazingly it had happened.
In my view, baseball is the greatest game ever invented. It is unique. It is historic. For nearly a century and a half it has proved to be the bridge that spans generations. It provides a window to escape from the tedium and difficulties of daily life. It gives people hope and faith – and notice I keep using those words hope and faith – and an opportunity to live vicariously through the Boys of Summer.”
Baseball brings people together, but more importantly is the remarkable sociological influence it has had on our great country over the years. That influence was best described by my very dear friend and former commissioner, the late Bart Giamatti. He wrote the following in an essay:
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it the most, it stops and summer is gone.”
I have always said that baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. There are those who look upon public service and social responsibility as a duty. I see it as an opportunity and a privilege.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, one of the world’s great humanitarians of the past century, once said: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know; the only one amongst you who will be really happy are those of you who have sought and found how to serve.”
I believe in those words and that’s what our great game is also about. It is a game in its totality this is much more than what takes place on the field of play. It is the impact it has on the lives of our fans and our nation. That impact never was as great as it was on April 15, 1947. That was the day the great Jackie Robinson stepped on a big league ball field for the first time and forever tore down the racial barrier that existed in our game. It was a magnificent moment that transcended sport and again portrayed baseball as a metaphor for life.
For the first time Major League Baseball truly became the national pastime. It changed the course of the country’s social history, came before Harry Truman integrated the U.S. Army and before the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, before Rosa Parks took her seat at the front of the bus and more than a decade before the civil rights movement made an impact on our country.
What I’ve learned from Jackie’s example and from my own career in baseball is that one’s social responsibility or an organization’s social responsibility often relies on one’s courage to do the right thing, even when those around you may tell you it is not the right thing to do or there are too many complex problems to overcome.
Giving up on your goals, your ideals or your dreams is the easy way out. You won’t succeed. Succeeding is hard and sometimes it is hard to do the right thing. My father used to tell me “If it were easy, everybody would be a success.”
It takes courage and vision to do the right thing. It takes courage and vision to be a success, and it takes courage and vision to make a difference.
I urge each of you to dream big dreams. I urge you to accept the challenge, be courageous, seek the vision to be the very best you can be. Never give up on your dreams. Your future is limitless. I truly believe you can achieve and accomplish whatever it is that you set out to do.
I wish all of you the very best and I leave you with the following quote from the great writer, W. Somerset Maugham. He said: “It’s a funny thing about life. If you refuse to accept anything but the very best, you often will get it.”
Congratulations. It has been a privilege for me to be here with you today. I wish all of you great success in the future.”
Thank you very much.