Fall 2016 Commencement Address by Jo Anne Hill: "Game Changers" [FULL REMARKS]


Jo Anne Hill is the director of diversity and employee engagement at Aflac. She leads and manages the diversity and inclusion approach for the company, including the integration of diversity into core personnel and business processes, with a focus on developing, implementing and driving best practice programs, initiatives and processes to foster Aflac's corporate commitment to diversity.


Hello, Columbus State University Cougars!

I am grateful to be here and to be a part of your celebration.

I want to particularly thank our president, Dr. Chris Markwood, for his vision, leadership and, of course, for the invitation to speak.

I also want to thank the board of trustees for their leadership and role in helping this institution to become one of the nation’s most respected institutions of higher education.

And, to our honorees, Columbus State University’s graduating class of 2016, my, my, my, you have done it! You have made it to Graduation Day! While some may look at this as a celebration that marks the end of something, I have come to tell you that this is a celebration of the beginning of something big! This is a day for which each of you has spent your entire life preparing.

To the audience - I would like every person in the civic center to join me in applause to show our future leaders… corporate executives, business owners, educators, public servants, medical professionals, legal professionals, inventors, discoverers of the next big thing, future Mayor, Governor, President of the United States, these Game Changers for what they are about to do! I cannot tell you exactly what it is you will do, but I can tell you that we know it will be spectacular, amazing, stupendous, and I am so thankful that I am here to see you at the start. To you, the graduates of 2016, we have been waiting for you!

Serving as the Director of Diversity at AFLAC has allowed me to see and better appreciate that great companies, great teams, great governments, great institutions of higher education, even great families function best when there is an appreciation for the importance of individual awareness and personal responsibility.

In this global economy in which we find ourselves, the benefits of diversity have never been more apparent than they are today. When you look at our most successful companies, Fortune 500 or even Fortune 100 - let me note that with the leadership and vision of Aflac’s CEO Dan Amos Columbus’s Aflac is #135 as we are a Fortune 100 company – a common characteristic that they all share is a commitment to diversity.

We are dynamic because of our differences. So as you leave here today, I encourage you to be the best you that you can be.

Embrace your uniqueness - In 2017, corporate America, government, the world is looking for diversity. When we talk about diversity, it is important to understand what we mean. The definition is bi-fur-cated. On one level, we are talking about inherent diversity, which includes things over which we have no control. These things are often described as things that we are born with, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation. On the second level, we have acquired diversity, characteristics and things that we have because we selected them through our experiences and associations. They include things such as our political views, our religious affiliations, our ethos, pathos, logos, the way we dress, where we live - our likes and dislikes. I like to describe this perspective as the way we define ourselves. Each of you is different. Celebrate your uniqueness.

One of the vogue words moving through this global era that you will hear often is innovation. Innovation does not happen without diversity. The world is looking for something new. The next Apple, the next Google, the next Facebook. We are looking for those who can take us to the next level. This is why the world has been waiting for you.

For most, gone are the days where you will be evaluated on what you know alone, you will now be evaluated on what you do, and how you change the game.

Let me be among the first to tell you that the stakes are high and the expectations are great. We are counting on you to change the conversation, to change the makeup of the room, we are counting on you to change the game. And by changing the game, you will change the world.

As Game Changer people, you will be expected to make a positive difference in the world around you. I have no doubt that you are ready for the world, as a matter of fact, considering some of you with whom I have spoken, I question whether the world is ready for you.

So let me share a few points for consideration.

To be Game Changers ...

You must be a dreamer. Allow yourself to think outside of social constructs, the proverbial paradigms. Challenge the status quo. Be unwilling to accept the current conditions. The belief that nothing is impossible should be a staple that you carry with you everywhere you go. As Game Changers, regardless of how good things appear to be, how good they feel, no matter how many people are willing to accept things the way they are, you know things can be better. You know we deserve better. You know we can do better. You will dream of ways to be more efficient, more effective, you are innovative. Every product or service we have is the product of someone's dream. As Game Changers, you possess the mental liberation and dexterity to redefine the paradigms in which we exist. To dream the impossible. To see the future and realize the invisible.

Game changers are courageous. In spite of their fear, Game Changers will charge ahead for the good of the whole. Game changers possess a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset and they understand that they must avoid their comfort zone.

Game Changers will persevere. Unwilling to take no for an answer, you must be relentless. Have a spirit that is indefatigable. As Game Changers, you are relentless. And when others are ready to quit. To give up. To throw in the towel. Game changers will push, you will push yourself and redefine your limits consistently. Your energy is contagious, and because you will continue the work through the blood, sweat, and tears, you will inspire others to do the same.

Many of you are familiar with the product WD-40. What you may not be familiar with is why it is WD-40, as opposed to WD-4. The 40 represents how many formulas they had to create before they created the one we purchase in stores today. 39 times they were knocked down. 40 times they rose.

Game Changers are doers (People of Action)

Talk is cheap. People will not care how much you know until they know how much you care and you show them how much you care through your actions.

As a Game Changer, you are motivated to chase your dreams because you want it; you are not stuck in a survival mode where you exist solely to satisfy your needs. Allow yourself to chase the biggest and boldest desires and wants that you have. Game Changers are people who get up and go. You are the elite few that will go against the grain, defy the odds, and take action.

I am sure that there are many Game Changers in here today. There are some relatives, friends or perhaps university personnel who said or did something that changed the trajectory of some our students, whether it was offer a strategy for graduating when you thought you might have to dropout. Or perhaps it was changing your perspective when you thought for a moment maybe I’m not college material. Yes, I am certain there a quite a few game changers in here. So to the class of 2016, I want you to know that no matter where you start, how you start, or when you start, you will be measured on the impact you have on the game. Not everyone is a game changer but everyone can be. I challenge you to commit to being Game Changers, the world needs you.

I want to share a personal story with you…

I’m going to assume that some of you are from the Columbus area and that you played in some local sports leagues. Well, when my son was 12, he played for the Cubs in the Peach Little League.

I’ve got to be honest. The Cubs were terrible. And when I say terrible, I mean they couldn’t even buy a game. We got down to near the end of this horrific season and the Cubs were playing the Foxes. My first thought was, “Let’s just get through this.” My second was, “Wow, these kids need some encouragement.” But I am no coach, I am no athlete. What can I say? All I could come up with was 5 simple words.

I know I annoyed the heck out of everyone – including my son – but every time he came up to bat, I yelled out my 5 simple words, so everyone could hear, “Brandon, you can do it!” And then I started to yell out the same encouragement for every player on the team. Justin, you can do it. Brandon, Robert can do it. John, Matthew, you can do it and so on.

Well, you know how they say that what you say can change a person’s life? One person got a hit, and another, and little by little the team’s posture started to change and the confidence began to grow and, darn it, the Cubs beat the Foxes that night.

Oh – and guess what? In addition to a lot of exasperated looks from people who were irritated by my enthusiasm, I was awarded the game ball!

The Cubs ended the season on a high note that carried over to the next season where they won the championship. The bottom line - no matter how you started, or from where you started, today each and every one of you possesses the power to change the game. This power you possess from day 1.

So as I prepare to take my seat, Columbus State University’s graduating class of 2016: the world is waiting for you to change the room - I say to you “You Can Do It!”

CSU’s class of 2016: The world is waiting for you to change the conversations - and I can assure it will not be easy - but I know You Can Do It!

And finally, CSU’s Class of 2016: We have filled this venue today because we all have great expectations for better lives, better communities, a better nation, a better world, and we believe you can help us get there. Family, Friends, and Supporters help me with the last one please…

The world, it expects you to change the game! We have no doubt, absolutely no doubt that You Can Do It!