JON BON JOVI / Remarks
MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2009
Thank you for inviting me to join you here today and for giving me the opportunity to speak.

Thank you to our First Lady, Mrs. Obama, for her longstanding, passionate commitment to volunteerism and her determined leadership by example in making community and national service an American priority.

Thank you to the First Lady of California, my dear friend, Maria Shriver, whose family tradition of service and activism has be partnered with all the tenacity of an intrepid journalist so she can impact and improve the lives of others.

And thank you to all of you attending the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service. Just by the nature of this convention, if I’m up here speaking to you, I’m preaching to the converted. You have embraced -– be it as a career or a charitable endeavor — the lessons, the need, and the power that volunteering can wield over any number of challenges we face today.

Just four years ago, in August of 2005, I spoke at this same conference in Washington, D.C. At the time, I was a proud, new owner of an arena football franchise and talked about our commitment to charities and causes within our home city of Philadelphia. How we’d given more than a quarter of million dollars to local causes before we’d played our first down; how we’d built a playground for a local children’s home. I was energized and excited about the work we’d done thus far.

It’s no secret that I’m a Type A, workaholic. When I get fixed on a challenge or a problem, I’m tenacious, like a dog with a bone. My wife just shakes her head. My staff stocks up on caffeine. But I go all in.

A lot has changed since August of 2005. A month after I addressed the conference, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Then Rita. Moved by what we’d witnessed, the band and I donated $1 million to Oprah’s Angel Network to help victims in the region.

A year later, in August 2006, I traveled down to Houma, Louisiana to hand house keys over to the 28 families who had new homes on Bon Jovi Boulevard.

And in October 2006, I launched the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation – the natural progression from our team’s community service cornerstone.

Our mission statement reads:

“Through the creation of programs and partnerships
targeted at breaking the cycle of poverty and
homelessness, the Philadelphia Soul Charitable
Foundation exists to combat issues that force
families and individuals into economic despair.”

To date, the Soul Foundation has provided funding to create 140 units of affordable housing for low-income individuals and families – not just in Philly, but in Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, Brooklyn, South Africa and my home state of New Jersey.

Although I’m very, very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, we know there’s a lot more work yet to be done.

But I’m not here to recite my resume of good works or pat myself on the back. I share this with you because, speaking to you in 2004, I could not have imagined the progress and impact we would make in just five year’s time nor could I have envisioned the profound changes in the American landscape facing us today.

Fast forward to 2009 and we find ourselves in a major recession with tales of economic misery unseen since the Great Depression. People are losing their jobs, their homes, their savings, their insurance… people are losing their grasp on the American dream. People who never imagined facing homelessness and hunger find themselves in need. Traditionally hardworking, blue collar, even white collar, families can’t make ends meet. These are scary times for many of our fellow Americans.

But even amidst the dark storm clouds, there are silver linings. Hope has not been lost.

For starters, we have a new President, and a new First Lady.

The Obama Administration – both in the West Wing and East Wing – is devoted to the pursuit of national service and volunteerism, not only as a way to engage the American public to help solve some of our nation’s biggest problems, but to restore a sense of community – on local, state and national levels.

On April 1st, President Obama signed the landmark Edward M. Kennedy Service America Act to expand national service programs.

Now, President Obama has been clear on our next point. We can’t do any of this alone. While the government can tackle large issues like restoring public schools or modernizing our health care system, it will take individuals working as mentors and tutors, caregivers and hospital volunteers to help locally. We need to address our challenges on both the macro and micro levels.

The more projects the Soul Foundation has completed, the more we’ve learned that in order to make substantive and permanent change, we need everyone – individuals and private donors, corporations, charities and governmental agencies – working in partnership towards accomplishing these massive goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Many of you here today are individuals committed to donating your personal time and energy to help your neighbors. But many of you here today represent non-profit foundations or large corporations, with financial resources to make a world of difference.

My role has been that of Robin Hood in many ways – uniting the private and the public, the governmental, charitable and individual. Our goals are the same. Our paths needn’t be parallel. We need to work in concert.

Still, the challenges facing us seem overwhelming. Many people want to help but don’t know HOW or WHO to help. Others might feel that there is little they as an individual can do in the face of such insurmountable obstacles. But every single person can make a difference.

In the midst of these troubled times, there has been a surge of compassion amongst Americans!

Despite the state of the economy, donations to community foundations went up!

The number of volunteers across America has ballooned!

In trying times, Americans are here for one another. This is the “Power of WE.”

Some might say I have a romantic view of the world but I truly believe people want to do good and want to help each other.

Jewish Tradition teaches of the 8 ascending Levels of “Tzedakah,” Charity.

In 2nd place is charity happily offered anonymously to the deserving poor who graciously receives.

But in 1st place… the ideal form of charity…
Offering a gift or loan, forming a business partnership, finding employment or teaching the tools and skilled needed to be successful and independent on one’s own.

It mirrors the timeless analogy of feeding a man a fish versus teaching that same man to fish, thus feeding him for a lifetime.
But let’s be honest with each other. The secret all of us here today already know is that dedicating yourself to helping others FEELS GOOD.
It’s heartwarming. It fulfills me.

Look, I’m a rock star. I have experienced so many things in my life, so many adventures, so many adrenaline rushes. But the way we feel when we break ground on an affordable housing project… or offer a clean, dry bed to a homeless veteran… or hand a family keys to their new home…
Well, I wish I could bottle that feeling and sell it – I’d make millions.
(And turn the proceeds over to charity, naturally.)
But it makes us want to do more and more.

So the ultimate silver lining in these stormy times may be the motivation to see beyond ourselves, the opportunity to look beyond our differences and truly MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Now, more than ever, it is time to be each other’s keeper.

To quote former President Clinton, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

I’ve had an incredible career, one I would not trade for the world. Through my charitable and philanthropic endeavors, I’ve found a way to give back to the universe which has given me so much over the last 25 years. I found an issue that spoke to me and became passionate about it. And I think we’re doing some good.

But many of you have been doing this work much longer, and better, than I. So I am here to learn from your experiences and efforts as much as I am to celebrate and applaud your work.

As I said earlier, just by joining you here today, I’m preaching to the converted. This room is practically the Vatican.

But unlike myself, most of you will not have the opportunity to testify before TV cameras about how wonderful it feels to give back to the community; you won’t have the power to redirect the media spotlight towards an important issue or project. But you don’t need the cameras. You can start a revolution one soul at a time in your own community.

If this is, indeed, a church full of believers, it is our job to become missionaries.
Convert others.
Convince them to lend their time, their energy, their money.

I don’t care if it’s the newly unemployed signing up to volunteer because they have hours to fill or resumes to pad. It doesn’t matter what the means are, they accomplish the same ends – helping others.
If volunteers discover, like we did, that their work enriches their lives… bonus.

If our product is Volunteerism and National Service, then we need to turn ourselves into outstanding marketing teams and publicists to recruit others to our cause.

Back in 2004, I announced at this conference that I wanted people to believe “volunteerism is hip.”
I wanted volunteerism to be the new black.

Well, I’m tweaking that statement a bit now.
I don’t want volunteerism to be hip.
Hip is whatever is popular at the moment.
It’s a trend, a fad, a fashion. It’s fleeting.
Trust me, as someone who has survived a fickle industry for 25 years, following what ever is “in” at the moment is no longterm plan… Don’t aim for hip.

On the other hand, black is always in fashion. Black is always classy. Black is timeless.
So, yes – I want volunteerism to be the new black.

I want people to do good and to feel good and to lead by example. So, I’m here to put myself on the line.
I am answering President Obama’s call to national service.
And I will again pledge to all of you who give so much, so selflessly to others and who don’t get the accolades or the opportunity to speak out, that I won’t let you down.
I am one of you.

Thank you for all your good work, because it is what will make America the Land of Dreams envisioned by our forefathers and previous generations.
It’s what will build a bridge over the troubled waters of this current economic crisis.
And it is what will fuel our fellow Americans to make the world go ‘round for the next generation.

I truly believe we are tipping off a Domino Effect.
We are here together, not just to witness history, but to make history, together.
One soul at a time.

Thank you and God Bless America.


JON BON JOVI / Remarks

Introduction by Marcia Bullard, CEO/President of USA WEEKEND:
Our next guest is very special, and we are so pleased that he decided to join us at this conference. Many of you know him as the very talented and popular rock star who has entertained people around the world since the 1980’s, Jon Bon Jovi.
The band that carries his name BON JOVI as you probably don’t need to be told has sold more than 100 million records and played before more than 32 million fans worldwide. Jon and Bon Jovi has a new album this fall and a new world tour. But you’ll get to see him first this year. And he’s on the cover of the USA WEEKEND issue in your goodie bags.
What you may not know, is that this nice guy from New Jersey has a long history of giving back to his community especially to New Jersey, and to nearby Philadelphia. If you’re from Philadelphia, you might know him as the owner of the Philadelphia Soul, an Arena Football league with a deep commitment to the community. The team and Jon himself visit hospitals, schools and raise money for charity. Through Jon’s partnership with Samsung’s Four Seasons of Hope charity, the Philadelphia Soul donated $200,000 to Philadelphia charities focused on AIDS, troubled children and the Police Athletic League and that was in just in one year in Philadelphia
My daughter’s first rock concert, I have to tell you, was to see Bon Jovi, at the old cap center, for those of you who are from here before it started taking on corporate names. (Laughter.)
My daughter loves Bon Jovi’s music and his good looks. I, on the other hand, simply admire him for his good works. (laughter) Please join me in giving a big welcome to a rock star who is making a difference to those in need, the one and only Jon Bon Jovi!
Thank you. It’s nice to see someone like Marcia reduced to being another squealing girl. (Laughter.)

I’d like to thank everybody for giving me the opportunity to be here today. I’ve been scared witless for the last two nights, thinking about what it was that I was going to say. And unlike anyone else, I haven’t got a word printed up here [points to the teleprompter screens] (Laughter.)

But as you know I was asked to speak to you today on volunteerism. And I believe that volunteerism is, in fact, the cornerstone of community. And in my second home, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I am the co owner of the Philadelphia Soul, of the Arena Football League, you may scoff and say “well, it’s not the NFL.” You’re right. (Laughter.)

I’ll tell you why I got involved in it, what it’s done and why I’m here to applaud all of you who volunteer. You see, I found something, for me, a way to give back to people who have given so much to me in the last 20 years. See, I’m a football fanatic. I really do love the game. And a friend of mine broached the subject one evening while I was traveling. He told me about the Arena Football League. And what appealed to me about this game (it’s played indoors, post the NFL season) was that it was a fan friendly game. And it was comprised greatly of players both on their way up and down from “the dream” which, in this day and age is, in fact, the NFL.

What appealed to me on a number of levels was the idea that these guys, given the opportunity, could be role models. When we consider our sports heroes these days as role models, I think it comes into question. Today’s papers with steroid abuse… you have star players showing up 30 minutes before playoff games… you have others complaining about a $9 million annual check because he didn’t get $10 million. It doesn’t make for great role models for my children or your children. What appealed to me about these athletes who were going to be broadcast on network television every Sunday was the idea that if I surrounded myself with true quality men, they could represent the community in a way that it hadn’t been represented in quite a long time. Also, what appealed to me was the idea that the working class man and woman had an opportunity to be involved in something affordable that they could share with their family, and participate in, if you will, because it’s such a live action game. And then perhaps look at these guys’ as some day being role models.

I went to an AFL owners’ meeting with our sponsors in Las Vegas and there was a man from a very big company who took the podium and said “these guys will never be on the box of Wheaties.”

I couldn’t wait to get up on the stage and say, “these are EXACTLY the guys I want on the box of Wheaties.” (applause) “These are the guys that I want to inspire (Applause.) the community.”

So before we played a down, before we sold a ticket, I went to find sponsors. And I know some of you here today have your hands on the corporate checkbooks which finance so much of the community activity that volunteerism relies on. I went to Samsung and I asked them initially for sports sponsorship, which they weren’t inclined to become involved in, and I understood. I said I have a bigger idea. “I don’t want this for me. What I want you to do is give me the opportunity to distribute this to charities that we see fit.”

So in our first year, we distributed $200,000. In our second year, we did the same. We’re only two and a half years old. I hope to continue to grow this. But what it allows me to do is to play Robin Hood. If I hear of a charity that’s in need, I volunteer. I volunteer not only my time, my organization’s time, but our efforts to raise money.

Now, not all of you are going to have the opportunity to have a camera in your face so that you can get that word out there. Not all of you are going to have the opportunity to be on television preaching about how wonderful it is to give back to the community. But as I performed most recently at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia, and we were talking about (Applause.) thank you helping fulfill Bob Geldof’s dream, as well as doing an incredible job raising awareness that the G8 took advantage of at that time, I was quick to turn the camera on our community, what was happening in South Jersey, what was happening in Philadelphia.

And it was wonderful and heartwarming for me. I have experienced so many things in my life, so many great adrenaline rushes. I’m a rock and roll star, for goodness sakes!! (Laughter.)

I remember playing the Cap Center. That’s how great it is. Because now I could tell you I play MCI. I’ve done all it. I’ve done it all. I got more of a rush when I went to the Northern Home for Children in North Philly and said “why don’t you have a great playground? I’ll build you a playground.” And we built a playground.

When you do that and you get people to volunteer their time, their money, their resources… it builds. I then put that playground on MTV’s Real World, for those of you who are familiar with that show. And they, in turn, had people calling and wanting to help and donate money and donate goods to the Northern Home for Children. You see, you don’t need the cameras. You can start a revolution one soul at a time in your community.

I found something that I loved and made it mine. I realized how I could multiply the goodness that it was giving me by 10 by giving back to the community. And, in turn, I think we’re doing some good.

I’ll leave you with this one thing because I know that the folks are here, and I want to take advantage of this opportunity because I want to put some corporate people’s feet to the fire back in New York. But ultimately, Habitat for Humanity, I really believe, does a lot of good work. (Applause.)

Now that I’m in the off season of football and heading back to a touring cycle, which is what we call it in the record business, instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money making a video for my second single, we’re going to use the funds and build housing for four families in Philadelphia. (Applause.)

What I hope to do is get the word out there that volunteerism is hip. In fact, I’m going to start a saying. I want volunteerism to be the new black. (Laughter.)

I want people to do good and to feel good and to lead by example. I’m here to put myself on the line and say it’s my pledge to all of you who give so much, so selflessly to others and don’t get the accolades or the opportunity to speak that I won’t let you down and we won’t let you down. And thank you for all your good work, because that is what’s going to make the world go around for the next generation. Thank you and good day.


Address to Students
KEAN UNIVERSITY Commencement Ceremonies
May 2002
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.
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.

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.

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.


Oxford Union Address
June 15, 2001

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Union, distinguished guests…Thank you. I’ve been looking forward to joining you here this afternoon. Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Kermit the Frog… that’s a very impressive list of American speakers you’ve welcomed. Now here I am, the latest Yank to address the famed Oxford Union.

But, today is a different appearance than I’m used to. I must admit this could have been rather intimidating. Not the public speaking part – I do have some experience in front of crowds! But this magnificent setting that is Oxford. In truth, I entered into this engagement with some pre-conceived notions about your school, it’s prestigious reputation, it’s rich academic history and it’s distinguished alumni. However, I also realized, that in all likelihood, some of YOU in attendance may be bringing with you some pre-conceived notions about ME. Some assumptions about who “Jon Bon Jovi” is, ideas about fame and celebrity, the obstacles and the victories in my career, the curiosity and the gossip about what I’d have to say. And about making a difference. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s make it our common mission tonight to cast aside all our pre-conceived notions about each other. It’s simple, but it’s true: you cannot judge a book by its cover – let’s explore the content.

“ROCK STAR” is such a label, such a cliché… let’s debunk the myth.

I grew up in Sayreville, New Jersey. Sayreville was, and still is, a working class township and mine was a working class family. My parents met when they were both U.S. Marines. After they married, my father was expected to follow in his fathers footsteps as a plumber but became a hairdresser. My mother was a shop owner and later a florist. They worked six days a week to support my two younger brothers and me. But like any parents, their hopes were to see their children do better than they did. In Sayreville, after you graduated high school, we believed you went to work like your father before you or you ran off to join the service. My three best friends chose the navy. They told me that was how they were going to see the world. But I had other plans… I spent my nights playing with bands in local bars. I wasn’t old enough to be served a pint in those pubs but when I wasn’t performing on stage I was watching, waiting, actually learning my craft. That was university to me. My parents, God bless them, figured “well, at least we know where you are!” If there’s one thing I give my folks all the credit in the world for, it is that they saw desire. They saw the dream and never discouraged me. If you have people like that in your life, you cannot fail.

There is no course on how to be a rock ‘n’ roll star, but it was the only future I ever envisioned for myself. Looking back on it now, there was no logical reason to believe… but I believed anyway. In my mind, I was going to be a musician. I knew it. I felt it. I believed it with every fiber of my being. It was probably a healthy combination of blind faith, naivete and passion that carried me towards my dream… and that, if you take ANYTHING from my words here today, is what you should remember: PASSION + PERSERVERENCE = POSSIBILITY.

Let me break it down.
PASSION is my favorite word. Nothing is more important than passion. Whatever you plan to pursue in life, whatever you do … be passionate about it. Not everyone is born into this world with the same advantages. It can seem pre-ordained and unfair when others seem to have an easier time out there in the world that you. But just because someone is wearing a fancy pair of trainers doesn’t mean they can run faster. Don’t be intimidated by the competition. Sometimes, the advantage is having to work twice as hard to accomplish your goal – the success is sweeter and the failure less bitter when you know you gave everything you had. Remember it’s PASSION, NOT PEDIGREE that can, and will, win in the end. It’s not your father’s world anymore. It doesn’t matter what the world expects from you… it’s what do you expect of yourself? Others will put their expectations, both good and bad, upon you. Ignore them. Be true to yourself. It’s your life.

Liz Murray grew up in New York City’s Bronx ghettos. She was neglected by her parents, both addicts who spent their monthly welfare checks on drugs. There was rarely food enough to eat or warm clothing to wear – her mother sold her younger sister’s winter coat in order to score drug money. Her father lived on the streets. Her mother had AIDS. At nine, she was the most responsible person in the family, pumping petrol and bagging groceries for money to survive, nursing her sick mother and raising her sister. By fifteen, her mother had died of AIDS, her father was wandering the city streets and Liz Murray was homeless. Her life, to most of us, was a living hell. But in the midst of this horrific landscape, she knew she could rescue herself. Determined to overcome her situation, she located her father and dressed him in a borrowed suit so he could sign paperwork enrolling Liz in a very respected public high school. She doubled up on her coursework to make up for lost time. She was a voracious student, sometimes studying and sleeping in the school stairwells that were lit all night – could you call it homework if you had no home? She finished four years of high school in just two years time. When she heard about the New York Times scholarship for needy local students, she applied.

During a school field trip to Harvard University, Liz Murray looked at the campus and its main library and thought “Why not me? What makes anyone at this school any different than me?”
She applied. Then, she was notified that she’d won the New York Times scholarship – in fact, Times readers were so inspired by Liz’s story, they donated enough money to the scholarship fund to allow fifteen more kids to go to college. Liz Murray – the same girl who just two years earlier was eating out of garbage dumpsters took her scholarship money and moved to Cambridge, Massachusettes. Liz Murray will be a member of Harvard University’s graduating class of 2004.

Liz Murray is undeniable proof that YOU ARE THE MASTER OF YOUR OWN DESTINY. If ever there was proof that PASSION, NOT PEDIGREE will win, this is it.

In the 80’s I had become quite successful in my music career. But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the road of life takes a bend. You either go on or look for the adventure that bend might bring. It was 1991 and in the previous 7 years I had released 5 albums, written five #1 singles, won a Golden Globe, received an Oscar nomination and had sold 40 million records. It was a good time to sit back, put my feet up and relax. I could wave that banner like my diploma and say I’d made it. But I chose to start over again in a new field. I chose to pursue an acting career. Not at the top but at the very bottom.

From day one, I was just another actor looking for work. My fame wasn’t a help – in fact, it was a huge hindrance. No one in Hollywood encourages musicians to make the transition into acting (let’s face it, the track record of rock stars trying to act isn’t very good.) I had to audition JUST to get an acting coach. Even after years of acting lessons, I wasn’t being offered roles – I was going on auditions. Nothing comes easy. It took persistence and patience and years of waiting until I finally won my first movie role. To be honest, on the way from the airport to the set that first day, the idea of jumping on the next flight out of town and running away did cross my mind. After studying in a room with an acting coach for three years, I found myself on a movie set beside Whoopi Goldberg, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kathleen Turner. It was terrifying. I’ve been in 9 movies in the last 7 years, a student of the craft still willing to fight.

BON JOVI still have to fight. I still have to fight. So I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t get too comfortable with who you are at any given time — you may miss the opportunity to become who you want to be.

Now we’ve discussed passion and persistence. What’s left? Possibility. Could I have imagined that my life would be as fortunate as it’s turned out to be? No. Never . But remember those misconceptions we discussed earlier? Let’s clear up a few.

This is a nice job if you can get it… Most people don’t get to do what I do. Everyday I go to work and can’t believe I get paid to do what I love. Rock ‘n’ Roll star or not, if you can say that about your job, you’re luckier than most. True, I don’t have to go to the office, but believe me, all hours of the day and night, in all parts of the world, we are out there working. It’s not the performing that’s work – no I’d PAY to play. It’s sacrificing your kids’ birthdays, your anniversaries, our American football season… and not that I’m complaining but I can do without another club sandwich in another hotel. But even with your degree, even with my accomplishments, you can never take your success for granted. Not fame, but the satisfaction that is success. Never take your audience for granted. Never forget where you come from. Be humble. Stay humble.

People say “money is the root of all evil” but that’s NOT the correct quote. The actual saying is “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil” – money can’t buy happiness, it can’t buy you class, it can’t buy you respect and as the Beatles said, money can’t buy you love.

Fame… Admit it… we all did it growing up… practiced signing our autographs, imagined what it would be like to be famous. I can tell you this: it’s weird. I’ve been very lucky. I’m able to live my life with minimal intrusion from the press and the paparazzi. When I wake up in the morning, it doesn’t occur to me “hey, I’m famous.” My wife and my two kids did not choose to be in the music business. They didn’t choose to be famous therefore I take great efforts to keep them out of the spotlight. With the exception of some unfortunate paparazzi shots, my children have NEVER been photographed. Fame ceases to exist at the end of my driveway.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle…This is why all of you came. You want to hear about the drugs, booze, the parties, the women…you want the gossip? It’s like we say in Jersey: Fuggitaboutit! If you were expecting me to betray the trust of my friends for our stories of life in a rock ‘n’ roll band, you’re gonna have to wait for my follow-up tell-all in THE SUN, or is it HELLO ? Don’t get me wrong… I’ve been in this business almost 20 years and am no saint but BON JOVI has never been the kind of band to air their laundry in public. Did you see the movie Almost Famous? Did you see all the fun they had? Well, they were almost famous – we’ve been REALLY famous. Get it? So, sorry to disappoint but there are some things we’ll keep to ourselves.

So, now we’ve come to the end of my speech.

I’d like to leave you with these finals words: grow up, but don’t grow old and live while you’re alive. When I was younger, I had no idea what tomorrow would bring. Next year, I will turn 40 and I still have no idea what tomorrow will bring. And THAT’S what makes it so exciting. So as you map out your future, do it in pencil. The road ahead is long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.

Thank You.

JBJ — Monmouth University 2001

Commencement Address
May 16, 2001

Good afternoon… and congratulations to the graduating class of 2001. President Stafford, faculty, alumni, parents, family and friends. I’m humbled and honored to have been asked to give this commencement speech on this, one of the most special days of your life (so far.)

I’ve had to think hard over the last several weeks about what information I could offer you that you might find useful in the years to come. Though the book of my life isn’t yet finished at 39 years old, I am a few chapters ahead so maybe there are a few lessons I can share.

Right now I’ll bet there are a multitude of emotions running through you – from sheer joy to trepidation, from anxiety to anticipation. Don’t worry — that’s normal. And it’s something you’ve faced before. When you went from kindergarten to elementary school and then from junior high to high school to college… it’s all been a series of NEW BEGINNINGS. Now, some of you have chosen to continue on with higher education, and others are jumping out into the “real world.” But YOUR schooling isn’t over. Treat the workplace as another school and learn all the lessons you can from it. Don’t be afraid to start from the bottom. Be humble and stay humble. No job is beneath you if you use it as a lesson.

I may have been very successful in my music career – but when I started a film career, I was just another actor looking for work. My fame wasn’t a help –in fact, it was a hindrance. No one in Hollywood encourages musicians to make the transition into acting. I had to audition just to get an acting coach! I took acting lessons but I wasn’t offered roles; I went to auditions. It wasn’t Hollywood calling (it wasn’t even Hoboken!) It took persistence and patience and years of waiting until I finally won my first movie role. Truth be told, on the way from the airport to the set that first day, the idea of turning around and running away did cross my mind. I had gone from three years of studying in a room with that acting coach to standing on the set of a major motion picture beside Gwyneth Paltrow, Whoopi Goldberg and Kathleen Turner. Was I scared? Yes! I was starting over again… at the bottom. It was like the first day of school for me and I couldn’t call my mother to hold my hand. A NEW BEGINNING.

Now, some of you may have your futures mapped out. Whether it’s continuing your education, conquering Wall Street, starting a Fortune 500 company, getting into politics, maybe becoming an entertainer. Then there are some of you who may not have a plan yet. That’s OK Don’t be embarrassed by indecision. Remember: this life is a marathon. Whatever road life leads you down, you can change direction at any time. When I was in my early twenties, I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. Now, staring at forty, I still don’t know. And that’s what makes life exciting. So map out your future – but do it in pencil. Remember, “Not all who wander are lost.”

Now, failure… ah, yes. We should discuss failure. How can I put it in terms you can relate to and yet won’t bring you down? Well, let’s just say: it stinks. Nobody wants to fail but, unfortunately, it’s inevitable. The only thing I can tell you about failure is this: it’s a formidable opponent. But, don’t let it scare you. In fact, it’ll teach you a lot – a lot about yourself, and others.

We all fail somewhere along the line. The race you lost, the test you didn’t pass and, in my case, the record execs who claimed “you’ll never make it in the music business.” Whatever. The point is, you get up, brush yourself off and get on with life.

I once read about a baseball player who struck out 1,330 times. But we don’t remember that Babe Ruth failed 1,330 times… we remember the 714 times Babe Ruth hit a home-run… It is what you learn from your failure that makes all the difference. Success is falling 9 times, and getting up 10.

Yes, it’s gonna be competitive out there and don’t think that it’s gonna be easy just because you have that diploma. Every year there’s a new crop of talent making records who want my spot and right at this very moment, all across the country, thousands of graduates are receiving diplomas, some from schools like Yale, Georgetown and Dartmouth, who maybe think their piece of paper is more valuable (or their commencement speaker more impressive.) Remember, we’re from Jersey. We’ve been the underdogs all of our lives. And I can tell you this: it’s passion, not pedigree, that can and will win in the end. Free yourself from comparison. Just because someone has fancy sneakers doesn’t mean they can run faster.

Bon Jovi was not supposed to succeed. Ask any critic. We weren’t from NY. We weren’t from LA. I didn’t live the cliché rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that “legends” were made of. We tried to keep up with the Jones’ until I realized that even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. One out of every 1,000 bands gets a record deal. One out of a million have any success. I’ve been to the top and I’ve been written off more than once… but I’m still here. Still the underdog? Maybe. Passionate? Definitely.

Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate. The world doesn’t need any more gray. On the other hand, we can’t get enough color. Mediocrity is nobody’s goal and perfection shouldn’t be either. We’ll never be perfect. But remember these three P’s: Passion + Persistence = Possiblity.

Sure, everybody wants to write a great novel, or a number one song. Who wouldn’t want to be a great visionary or President of the United States? It’s easy to look at any of those things and say, “No… I can’t write a better book than John Steinbeck or a better song than The Beatles. How could I ever be as brilliant as Bill Gates or as brave as Abraham Lincoln?” You have to believe you can. Believe… and anything is possible.

Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will? I was blessed, as are many of you here today, to be surrounded with people in my life who believed. Listen to them; in turn, you’ll believe in yourself.
Because each one of you has something no one else has, or has ever had: your fingerprints, your brain, your heart. Be an individual. Be unique. Stand out. Make noise. Make someone take notice. That’s the power of individuals. It’s exciting.

Take time. Stop. Look around you. Freeze the moment. Use your eyes and your mind to take pictures – mental pictures. Store the images like photographs in your head and your heart. If you already do that, good for you. If you don’t, but think it’s a good idea, it’s not too late to start right now. Look around and remember this moment. At the end of the day, it’s not the person with the most toys who wins – it’s the person with the most memories. Because, when you’re sitting in your rocking chair at the young age of 100, those memories are gonna be like old friends. Someone you can call on to make you smile. And the more of those old friends that come around, the better.

To sum it up, there’s a few things I know for sure:






I’d like to take this public opportunity to thank mine. Not only are parents the reason any of us are here but, chances are, they flew next to you through every high and sunk below you at every low… They deserve a big hug. Actually, they deserve a big house, a new car and a long vacation… and now that you’ve made it to this day, maybe a stiff drink.
Today marks your rookie season in the big game. Get out there and play. Hold your diploma up in your hands and do the touchdown dance. Let the world know you scored. That piece of paper in your hands is the ball, your everything…

It’s the Declaration of Independence.

YOUR independence.

Happy Independence Day!

Come tomorrow, work hard.

Tonight, play hard.

You’ve earned it and you deserve it.

Good Luck and Good Life.