Brad D. Smith Honored as WVU December 2020 Commencement Speaker

West Virginia University (WVU) recently invited Brad D. Smith, a native of Kenova, WV, to take part in their December 2020 graduating class’s celebration. As the remote event’s commencement speaker, Brad spoke to the students’ opportunity to thrive despite challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. He described how their experiences adapting to current adversity can instill some of the most important professional skills available: adaptability, resilience, and purpose.

Brad defined adaptability as being able to develop multiple scenarios for future events instead of committing to a singular plan. By growing through their studies during COVID-19, he discussed how students have already started to prosper during the greatest time for adaptability in the last 100 years.

For resilience, or “grit,” Brad said that students already had gained experience combining their passions and perseverance to pursue goals, calling success the ability to learn from failure without losing enthusiasm. He noted that many successful tech startups fail on their first idea — and that’s the point. Given what students have lived through in 2020, they have already developed unparalleled levels of dedication and the willpower to achieve their dreams.

Brad defined purpose with a Mark Twain quote: “The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day that you discover why“. Right now, he said, is the best time for students to discover their most important goals and how to achieve them. To learn how to establish and pursue their goals, he recommended all students read The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay.

Despite the year’s difficulties, WVU graduates are transitioning into professions at one of the most exciting times for West Virginia. Game-changing ideas are becoming a reality for the state, including the Virgin Hyperloop and the Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (OECD). By starting local companies and recruiting employees to live and work in West Virginia, graduates are more prepared than ever to be a part of the change that young professionals from all over the world seek. This is one of Brad’s biggest focuses through his Wing 2 Wing Foundation, which he started with his wife Alys.

Brad ended by recognizing this year’s graduates as the business and community leaders of West Virginia’s future. “You are our best and brightest,” Brad said. “You are our hope of today…and proud mountaineers. This is your time. Go put your dent in the universe.”