Monday, June 4, 2012

Michael Steele Speaks at Mid-South Community College Graduation - Tells Students to Set Lofty Goals and Work with Conviction

We are so proud to share the following press release from Mid-South Community College, where out President and CEO, Michael Steele, spoke to graduates about hard work and paying it forward.  He also received an honorary Associate of the Arts degree from MSCC.

MAY 24, 2012, MEMPHIS, TN - MSCC Graduation Speaker Tells Students to Set Lofty Goals, Work with Conviction 

Setting challenging goals and working with conviction, when coupled with the “magic” of higher education, make personal and professional success possible, says advertising/marketing expert Michael Steele. 

Steele, speaking to the largest graduating class in the history of Mid-South Community College, encouraged students to work hard, dream big, and ignore critics. “I’m here to tell you, the world is yours as it is mine, but we have much work to do,” said Steele, president and chief executive officer of Advantage Communications, Inc., of Little Rock. “Let this be the beginning...a life-changing event. Set goals for yourself, and set them twice as high as the person sitting next to you. Don’t be denied.” 

“People can say what they want to say, but when you have the desire and that fire is in your belly, nobody can stop you. I urge you to work hard and dream big. If you take your job serious and start an hour before everybody else and stay an hour afterwards, eventually you’ll be running the place...and you’ll change your own destiny.” 

Steele, who grew up in a public housing project in North Little Rock, told graduates to be more concerned about where they are going than where they started.

“I grew up in the projects…and I knew nothing different,” he pointed out. “Many said I had no chance. Many said I would never finish high school. Many said I would not finish college, and when I left high school, my classmates, particular my basketball mates, were wagering if I would last a semester. Shame on them.” 

“There ain’t no limit because of where you’re from. If it happened with me and my family, it can happen to you. I am testimony. You can do whatever you want to do, but you have to believe in you.” 

Steele, who didn’t make it through the first day of tryouts for the ninth-grade basketball team, played the game every day for the next eight years to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. He went on to star in high school and college and even played a season in the NBA. 

“I take that attitude with me everywhere I go,” he said. “I will not be defeated; I will not stop. Everything I do, I do with conviction. 

While basketball opened some doors for him, it did not guarantee him success in the business world. Steele credited education and determination for propelling him to major corporate accomplishments with Coca-Cola and the business that he founded 10 years ago upon returning to Arkansas.

“Education is everything,” he said. “I learned at an early age that education was key…I did discover some magic. If you want to do something special, educate yourself.”

When Advantage Communications joined approximately 300 other firms in vying for the General Motors account, “My peers laughed at me,” Steele said. “They said, ‘Who would pick that agency?’ But we won here in Arkansas. Today we have the fastest growing advertising agency in the South.”

Steele encouraged students to be selective in their job searches.

“Don’t take the first job; take the best job,” he said. “And don’t take the job for money. Take the job for how it’s going to help you long term. Hold out; be patient; be disciplined, and you will be richly rewarded.”

The keynote speaker left the students with one final challenge.

“You need to pull someone along; you need to reach back and encourage someone else to graduate,” he said. “Each of you needs to go find a friend or a family member and bring them along this journey.”

Following the presentation, MSCC President Dr. Glen Fenter awarded Steele an honorary Associate of Arts degree from MSCC.

More than 245 students from 19 cities and towns in Arkansas and Tennessee earned MSCC degrees and/or certificates. For a full list of those graduates and their accomplishments, go to

- Press Release and photo courtesy of MSCC.