Address to Students
KEAN UNIVERSITY Commencement Ceremonies
Good morning, President Faraji, Governor McGreevey, Trustees, Foundation Board Members, Honored Guests, Faculty, Graduates and your families.
I am extremely honored to be here today and very grateful to have been invited to take part in this auspicious moment in your lives.
For those of you who do not know, once upon a time I attended Kean University. I spent a few semesters here but I decided my future lay elsewhere. Now, twenty-plus years later, to be invited back to receive an Honorary Doctorate is a privilege that is both gratifying and very moving.
And, let me also say… congratulations. Not only have you completed your course of study and made your families so proud, you all managed to get me here at 7 o’clock in the morning!! I’m a rock star. Well done!
Of course, the question you’re probably asking is the same question I asked myself. What could I say to you? What wisdom could I pass along? What knowledge have I learned in my life that could be useful to you? I’ll admit, my career path is unique and it might seem extreme to find similarities between some of the paths you will be taking and the one I chose. But the same basic principles that are guiding me in my life and my career might help steer you on the right path.
LESSON #1) SCHOOL IS NEVER OVER…
School does not end for you today. Not by a long shot.
Congratulations. You’ve just graduated Kean University and you’ve been accepted into the University of Life.
There’s no tuition and no lengthy admissions process.
Only those with a hunger for learning, a zest for adventure and a true passion for living life need apply.
Every experience from this moment forth is a learning opportunity.
Embrace every challenge you have, every person you meet, every place you visit, every task you succeed at, and especially those at which you fail… you will learn from them all.
You’ll learn about the world at large… and about other people… but most important, you’ll learn about yourself.
Don’t be afraid of failure – embrace that too. Dare to fail. If you never fail – you’ve never taken risks – and that’s no way to take on this life. Every storm you weather makes you stronger and more confident the next time you see clouds up ahead on the horizon. Failure can be brave if you continue on… a broken bone heals stronger.
Seize every single opportunity you have to learn – keep your eyes and ears wide open and seize life – don’t let the moments slip through your fingers like a fistful of sand.
Here’s my first lesson for you.
Learn the word AUTODIDACTIC. Be your own teacher; let life write your textbook.
LESSON #2) YOU DETERMINE THE MEANING OF SUCCESS
The love you take is equal to the love you make. It’s a simple concept Lennon and McCartney captured.
Call it what you will: karma, the golden rule, common sense.
You can try to measure my success in fame, money, houses, cars, platinum albums, sold-out concert tours… knock yourself out trying to do the accounting but you’ll NEVER be able to tabulate true success.
For me, success is being able to give back to your friends, your family, your community, those in need, and the world entire.
Let me assure you, nothing in this life feels better than having the confidence that you can take care of yourself and your family and know that you can continue to grow and excel in your profession and as a person.
This is my definition of success.
But there’s no magic potion, no secret formula.
There is absolutely no substitute for hard work.
There is always someone right behind you, willing to work harder for what you have and what they want.
Don’t look over your shoulder and don’t use and abuse others to get ahead.
Keep your eyes focused on your goals and keep working for what you believe in and what you want to accomplish.
Success is something that can never be measured by others
Only you can define and measure your own success.
LESSON #3) STAY TRUE TO WHO YOU ARE
Every one of you has an inner compass – ‘to thine own self be true’.
You know who you are in your heart. Don’t allow anything or anyone to compromise this.
We live in a cynical, complicated, combustible, loud world full of horrible realities… and moments of excruciating grace and beauty.
Somehow, you need to cling to your optimism. Always look for the silver lining. Always look for the best in people. Try to see things through the eyes of a child; see the wonder in the simplest things. Never stop dreaming.
Believe anything is possible…
Today is an important day.
A defining moment in your lives.
A leap into the great unknown.
Remain in this moment.
Parents and graduates – Be proud of what it took to get here.
Look at me. I’m a kid from a dead end street next to a swamp in Woodbrige, New Jersey.
From a meager background, it’s almost inconceivable.
Bon Jovi, the band no one would have bet their paycheck on to succeed, is huger than we could have imagined in our wildest dreams.
We’ve played in 42 countries around the world…
More than 32 million fans came to see us play…
And we’ve sold more than 100 million records.
We’ve received honors and awards from all over the globe…
We travel all over the world (on a pretty sweet private plane no less!)…
I’ve met and even performed with some of my personal musical heroes…
And I’ve been truly humbled to learn that I’ve become someone that younger musicians look up to…
And hey, did I happen to mention that I’m married to Heather Locklear??
Not bad, eh?
All of this is only because I believed it was possible.
I believed I could achieve my goals and I busted my ass to get there.
I’ve had a lot of luck along the way but I’ve learned that you make your own lucky breaks.
But I couldn’t have done it alone though.
I have to thank all the teachers in my life for there have been many in all shapes and forms.
But especially my parents, Joan and Adam, who are here with me today, for their love and support…
My wife, Heather, and my daughter, Ava, who are my reason for everything…
And God for all the confidence …
So, what have I been able to offer you with these words today? I don’t know.
My life experience is, to put it mildly, UNIQUE. But I hope that I’ve been able to give you a glimpse into a future that is possible when you believe you can succeed and passionately pursue your goals.
In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you all referred to me as Dr. Sambora for now on…
(and I’ll be asking my wife to do the same, since I already bought her the nurse’s uniform!)
May God Bless you and all your families.
Congratulations and good luck in your lives.