Commencement AddressThe Owen School of Management,Vanderbilt UniversityNashville, TennesseeMay 8, 1992
I IMAGINE THAT it is a rare uncle who has served as the inspiration for a commencement address, but that is nonetheless the case today. My late uncle, Clifton Armstrong Hip-kins, was a model citizen, an integrity-laden investment banker, and, most relevant to my theme today, a dedicated sailor. I shall never forget the message captured in the name of his old New England lobsterboat, “Press On Regardless.” And that is the message that I shall urge on you today: press on, regardless.
One of my avocations is lexicography. I love to study the derivation of words and phrases, and a highlight of my life was my contribution to one of William Safire's “On Language” columns in The New York Times a few years ago. But I have been unable to discover a precise provenance for “Press On Regardless.” However, Calvin Coolidge—a taciturn Vermonter who seems to have wasted fewer words than any American President in the 20th century, perhaps because he engaged in the rapidly disappearing art of writing his own speeches—surely made a major contribution:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press on” has ...