NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Saying that today’s fast-changing world requires people who can adapt, Tennessee State University fall commencement speaker told nearly 500 graduates Saturday that to be successful they must be ready to “run when the sun comes up,” to keep pace.
“Today’s reality is that the world is changing faster,” said Shannon Brown, senior vice president and chief human resource and diversity officer at FedEx Express. “Economies and their enterprises are moving at a very fast pace and people who are slow to adapt will be left behind.”
Brown, recognized by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the “100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America,” paralleled his remarks to the “gazelle” and the “lion” in Christopher McDougal’s book, “Ready to Run,” where the gazelle must outrun the fastest lion or be killed, or the lion must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running,” said the FedEx executive, who, in 30 years, worked his way from a package handler to become one of the top executives at the world’s largest express transport company.
He said in a fast-track world with constant technological advances and changes that have revolutionized all aspects of industry and human thinking, people who are slow to catch on and prepare for the future will be left behind.
He applauded the graduates for their determination to complete their university journey, urging them to use that same determination to press their way forward.
“As you enter this fast changing world, surround yourselves with good mentors; they can help you make the transition from one environment to the other; don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; and commit to being lifelong learners,” Brown told the graduates.
The Memphis, Tennessee, native who said his job as the highest ranking human resource and diversity officer at FedEx is to keep employees engaged and satisfied, named charisma, individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, courage, dependability, flexibility, judgment and respect for others as “time-tested” leadership principles that will keep them competitive in their chosen fields.
“It is about believing that every individual brings value to the table; and do not forget to give back to the community,” Brown added.
TSU President Glenda Glover, herself a Memphis native, thanked Brown for what she called, “a thought-provoking” speech, and congratulated the graduates for their accomplishment.
“You have endured and prepared yourself to reach this goal which may have seemed unattainable, but you stuck with it,” Dr. Glover said. “You must always remember that you did not accomplish this goal all by yourselves. There were parents, relatives, friends and mentors who helped you along the way. Remember to thank them.”
More than 500 graduates received degrees in various disciplines at the ceremony in the Gentry Center Complex. Among officials who attended the program was Dr. Wendy Thompson, vice chancellor for Organizational Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives, at the Tennessee Board of Regents.