My fellow job seekers: I am honored to be among the first to congratulate you on completing your years at North Carolina A&T. But all of you should know: as Mother's Daygifts go, this one is going to be tough to beat in the years ahead.
The purpose of a commencement speaker is to dispense wisdom. But the older I get, the more I realize that the most important wisdom I've learned in life has come from my mother and my father. Before we go any further, let's hear it one more time for your mothers and mother figures, fathers and father figures, family, and friends in the audience today.
When I first received the invitation to speak here, I was the CEO of an $80 billion Fortune 11 company with 145,000 employees in 178 countries around the world. I held that job for nearly six years. It was also a company that hired its fair share of graduates from North Carolina A&T. You could always tell who they were. For some reason, they were the ones that had stickers on their desks that read, "Beat the Eagles."
But as you may have heard, I don't have that job anymore. After the news of my departure broke, I called the school, and asked: do you still want me to come and be your commencement speaker?
Chancellor Renick put my fears to rest. He said, "Carly, if anything, you probably have more in common with these students now than you did before." And he's right. After all, I've been working on my resume. I've been lining up my references. I bought a new interview suit. If there are any recruiters here, I'll be free around 11.
I want to thank you for having me anyway. This is the first public appearance I've made since I left HP. I wanted very much to be here because this school has always been set apart by something that I've believed very deeply; something that takes me back to the earliest memories I have in life.
One day at church, my mother gave me a small coaster with a saying on it. During my entire childhood, I kept this saying in front of me on a small desk in my room. In fact, I can still show you that coaster today. It says: "What you are is God's gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God."
Those words have had a huge impact on me to this day. What this school and I believe in very deeply is that when we think about our lives, we shouldn't be limited by other people's stereotypes or bigotry. Instead, we should be motivated by our own sense of possibility. We should be motivated by our own sense of accomplishment. We should be motivated by what we believe we can become. Jesse Jackson has taught us; Ronald McNair taught us; the Greensboro Four taught us; that the people who focus on possibilities achieve much more in life than people who focus on limitations.
The question for all of you today is: how will you define what you make of yourself?
To me, what you make of yourself is actually two questions. There's the "you" that people see on the outside. And that's how most people will judge you, because it's all they can see what you become in life, whether you were made President of this, or CEO of that, the visible you.
But then, there's the invisible you, the "you" on the inside. That's the person that only you and God can see. For 25 years, when people have asked me for career advice, what I always tell them is don't give up what you have inside. Never sell your soul. Because no one can ever pay you back.
What I mean by not selling your soul is don't be someone you're not, don't be less than you are, don't give up what you believe, because whatever the consequences that may seem scary or bad -- whatever the consequences of staying true to yourself are -- they are much better than the consequences of selling your soul.