There was so much news that one of the greatest Donald Trump speeches yet slid by pretty much unnoticed over the weekend. But I didn’t miss it and as I listened on the radio from my garage during a wonderful spring day in southern Ohio, I heard something special. As Donald Trump spoke at a commencement ceremony at Liberty University to a packed 50,000 plus crowd Trump essentially told the story of “the road less traveled.” I would have thought that just the crowd size alone might melt the faces of the liberalized press—but the contents of the speech was amazing for a sitting president. I can’t think of a similar speech from anybody anywhere. Usually these speeches are full of empty cheer leading but what Trump talked about as a successful person himself had a lot more meaning and contained within it the keys to why his Executive Branch is so effective evoking so much criticism from those I would term losers.
It surprised me even though I suppose these kinds of speeches are common at commencement ceremonies, but this one was different in that Trump specifically spoke on the details of “The Road Less Traveled” which is another of my favorite books by M. Scott Peck M.D. It’s quite something to have a person as successful as Trump to speak as a president of the United States. The story of Liberty University is much like that of Donald Trump—it’s a little school guided by the evangelist Jerry Fallwell Jr., that has went from a small campus with big dreams to one that is actually about to compete at the top-level of NCAA football. It’s a good school that is doing what colleges are supposed to have always been doing—educating.
Trump actually hit on why people fail at things in life in an honest fashion that should have done anybody listening a lot of good. People often fail because they are afraid of peer critics who often don’t have the same courage to achieve things outside the norm. Stamina has a lot to do with success too; very few things in life are easy. But most kids at most colleges this spring and from the past hear a bunch of flat talk about success without ever really getting to the meat and potatoes of how it’s achieved, and Trump did those kids a tremendous favor in addressing the keys to success which none of them should ever forget.
Throughout a work week my wife often sends me texts asking me how my day is going hoping that one time I’ll tell it that everything has been OK, because it never is. This past week we had lunch together and it was a particularly terrible day full of so much stress that my teeth hurt. I could taste blood in the back of my throat and the calcium on my teeth felt thin as a direct reaction to enormous amounts of stress. It had been one of those days where 99.9% of the people doing work in a similar fashion would just say to hell with it—and they’d give up. And who could blame them except for the measures of success for which everyone mutually wishes to achieve. I mean, nobody sets out to fail, everyone wants success in things at life—in their professions, in their personal life—spouses, kids, friends, etc. But most people lack the basic ingredients to achieve success and it’s often a very lonely road so sharing the thrill of conquering some difficult obstacle is often something you can’t relate to others. In that way success is very personal and you either do it for the right reasons, or you don’t.
The world is full of people who don’t succeed in life—and most of those people who seek public office or jobs in entertainment—and I’d consider mainstream media part of entertainment—are the type of people who fail on their own accord. They need someone else to give them success and as second-handers they climb a ladder and hope someone at least puts one in front of them. These people will cheat, sleep, and manipulate others any way they can to achieve success at the expense of what the true measure of achievement demands—that life isn’t easy and that overcoming your greatest fears is really the only way to win. And on those days where you look around and all you see is pain and misery from failure after failure to the point where you can taste the blood in your own mouth—you thrive because that’s the way you get there—and you learn to love it.
During that aforementioned lunch I quietly looked out the window thinking of my response. We’ve almost been married for 30 years so these aren’t new discussions but every so often something remarkable gets discussed—and this issue about having a good day was one of them. I can’t say that if I woke up in the morning where everything worked the way I intended it to, that I’d really be happy. I love the battlefield and I love overcoming adversity. I like beating the odds and I like being the only person in the room who thinks something is possible. In fact, you might say I live to beat the odds—I like signing up for things that should be impossible and making them work. I’ve been doing it all my life and it’s a consistent pattern that I embark on. When someone says that you shouldn’t do this or that because there isn’t some metaphorical path taking you cleanly to some destination at the end—I always take that rough path because often that’s where treasures that everyone seeks usually hides. Think about it, if you want something unique in life whether its happiness, riches, love, wisdom—why would you do things the way that people who are obviously unhappy with life do them—people who are unsuccessful—people who have to take drugs to avoid depression, or people who drink too much, eat too much, and can’t maintain relationships? You can look at a man sitting in a park on a beautiful day on his third divorce chain-smoking cigarettes and know exactly why he’s in that condition. If you talk to him he’ll blame the women. But if you really peel back the onion, there are things wrong with him that cause the failures in his life—and it usually starts with the cigarettes—the reason he smokes. I told my wife on that lunch day that I don’t think human beings should wake up wanting a good day, but that as thinking creatures we should seek to imprint our intelligence on the world against its wishes and take those days with all the twists and turns presented and straighten them out flat. Problems were meant to be solved and you either tackle them aggressively, or you don’t. And if you don’t tackle problems then likely you won’t have success in life unless a pile of gold just happens to fall in your lap. But that is almost never the case.
Success is hard and it’s not something a peer can give you. It’s just something you have to be willing to take with a fearlessness uncommon to our species. That is after all why Trump is president and most people hate him. They hate him for what they aren’t. They can cuss and spit at him talking about how unconventional he is, and how he does his own thing—but what they hate most about Trump is that he does have the fearlessness, the stamina, and the courage to strive for success in everything he does. And that makes him different from them—and they hate the contrast because it makes them feel guilty. So Trump’s Liberty University speech was certainly one of the greats for the history books. It may have only spoken to the 1% out there who strive to think the way he does, and Liberty University seems committed to finding those types of people in the world—so the speech was appropriate. But for many, the speech spoke at a key to life that many of them gave up on a long time ago and for them it was difficult to listen to. When something sucks in your life and you are in midlife and miserable the answer is really easy—and you can see it clearly every morning when you look in the mirror. That reality can be very painful, but such a person, which is in the majority of our so-called “democracy,” should not cripple intellectually the next generation. That is why Trump gave not only a wonderful speech, but one that actually had true meaning. What he did was a gift to the students of Liberty University—and to all those with the courage to hear it. The key to success in life with all the pains and perils is, “The Road Less Traveled.”
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