Dr. Aamir A. Rehman, Chair of Innate Capital and Senior Fellow at Columbia Business School, delivered the 2022 commencement address at the Mercer County Community College (MCCC). Dr. Rehman served as Board Chair of the MCCC Foundation from 2020 to 2022.
In his remarks, Dr. Rehman gave the young grads an insight into three questions that can guide them for the rest of their lives.
Question #1: What do you see?
We human beings constantly observe the world around us and make meaning from what we see. The meaning we give fundamentally shapes our mindset, our actions, and our impact. There is an oft-repeated parable of a person who passes three bricklayers busy at work. They ask each of the bricklayers the same question: “What are you doing?” The first replies, “I am laying bricks.” The second replies “I am building a wall.” The third replies, “I am building a cathedral for the glory of God.” Three people doing the same work but finding vastly different meaning in what they do.
“If you process transactions at a bank, you are circulating funds that keep our economy going. If you manage medical records at a hospital, you are enhancing the quality of health care. If you are an educator, you are developing our next generation of leaders. And if you serve in the armed forces, you are protecting our nation and the principles for which it stands. See the nobility in your work and the nobility in all you do. Find meaning in your career, at home, and in the community. When you do, you will find a sense of fulfillment and a life of purpose.”
Question #2: How will you make things better?
Rehman told the graduates that the world needs them not only for their academic knowledge and technical skills. “The world desperately needs the character for which Mercer stands: pragmatism, resiliency, grit, creativity, compassion, and inclusion.”
“Where else do you see a community college newspaper winning 27 national awards for its excellence, a baseball team headed to the College World Series, a #1 national tennis player, a horticulture program that consistently wins prizes, a mortuary sciences program amongst the best in the country, and a widely renowned radio station (WWFM) – all at the same institution?”
After showing the students the multitude of ways they are already making their community a better place, he reminded them that wherever their journeys lead, to ask themselves how they can continue to make things better. When it might not seem so clear where your help is needed, Rehman told students to ask, “how can I help?”. This very simple question will “lead you to places you might never have expected.”
Question #3: How will you give thanks?
“There is a profound rule of the universe: when you give thanks, you receive more. Gratitude fosters a positive attitude, strengthens our relationships, and attracts more goodness.” It creates a virtuous cycle of giving and receiving. From his own experience, Rehman shared how gratitude never ceases to amaze him. One thank-you note, one gift, one visit can lead to unpredictable connections and opportunities.
Rehman also noted that being grateful helps foster a balance between a healthy ambition that drives us forward and a sense of contentment that gives us peace. In the spirit of gratitude, Rehman requested graduates to appreciate the people who have been especially helpful in their college journey. With so many parents in the audience, Rehman reminded students that “As happy as you feel today, your parents feel even happier. And when you have days of sadness or suffering, your parents feel it more than you do. I advise you to share with them your good times because you will inevitably share with them your bad times. Celebrate your parents the way they celebrate you.”
A successful investor and educator, Dr. Aamir A. Rehman, knows success comes from our perspective toward life, our willingness to help others, and our gratitude for what we have. He is imparting this life-changing advice to young minds with three simple questions to ask every day.