Burdette speaks at graduation

PARKERSBURG- Leadership is not something that is taught, but it can be something that can be learned, the secretary for the West Virginia Department of Commerce told the 2013 graduates from National College’s Parkersburg campus.

Keith Burdette was the commencement speaker at a graduation ceremony Thursday evening at the Parkersburg Art Center where 24 students received their degrees.

Burdette told students and their families that graduation ceremonies are times when people are able to appreciate what it means to be an adult in that people recognize and accept responsibilities, because they are developing a strategic plan for their lives.

”I have a different take on that,” he said. ”I think times like this show how much inner child we still have left.

”It requires real imagination in this day and age to be able to visualize a parallel existence to be able to embrace a different path in your life, all simply because you believe.”

Children have a way to believe in something and have the conviction to be able to justify their beliefs.

”It is no small thing,” Burdette said. ”You have not lost sight of the big dream.”

Through their education, the graduates were able to get the skills they hope will improve their lives and the lives of their families, he said.

”This is not the end of the race,” Burdette said.

‘This is not the end of a good sprint.

”It is the beginning of a marathon. The day you stop learning is the day you might as well crawl into the box, because life will not be as rewarding.”

College gives people the tools to be successful in life. It is up to the person what he or she will do with those tools, Burdette said.

”The person who scores well on a SAT is not necessarily going to be the best doctor, best lawyer or the best businessman, because those tests do not measure character, leadership, creativity or what a person is,” Burdette said, quoting sociologist William Julius Wilson.

It is not just finding a direction in life, but finding passion that drives people, Burdette added.

”Anyone can lead, but not everyone is a leader,” he said.

People can be important parts of any organization or make important contributions to any field, but few will be the ones who will determine the direction taken, Burdette said. The key is finding those who can lead in a direction for the common good, he added.

”Leadership is not practiced in words, but in attitude and action,” he said.

People may have titles that give them power, but those do not make good leaders.

”Leaders are those who empower others,” Burdette said. ”Management is doing things right, but leadership is doing the right things.

”We need leaders in every facet of our lives. We need them in our schools, churches, businesses and governments. Those leaders could be in this room.”

Leaders are those who listen and respect others. They will listen to others ideas and encourage others to lead as well.

”Have a passion for your cause,” Burdette said. ”Passion is the feedstock of all leaders.”

Leadership requires responsibility and responsibility requires risks.

”Embrace it or walk away,” Burdette said. ”A good leader will share the praise of success and will accept responsibility for failure.”

Whatever career path the graduates follow, Burdette said for him it was not one moment that defined what he would do in his life. It was continually developing as new opportunities presented themselves and he had the ability to do something.

”You are here tonight because you are driven,” he said. ”That gives me great hope for you, this city, this state and this nation.

”Provide the leadership to those who are most important to you.”