Wearing his signature sneakers and sports jacket, writer-actor-lawyer-economist-columnist Ben Stein told an audience of seniors and other students that there are many ways to succeed and fail in life.
“I’m just fascinated by what I see around me in terms of success and failure,” Stein said, “and how people who would seem to have every advantage in life often cannot succeed, and people who are perceived to have no advantage in life at all do succeed and succeed mightily.”
Stein discussed these two themes at length to the several hundred students who attended the Spring Convocation ’06 at the BankUnited Center.
He also discussed the idea of gratitude at length during his remarks, which is something he said is essential to succeeding in life.
“A life without gratitude is insanely destructive and self-destructive,” Stein said. “There is so incredibly much to be grateful for in this country-there is no way to count it.
“We all live better than our ancestors did-that’s the whole meaning of America. The ordinary American has an incredibly good life. Some don’t, but compared to where we came from we all have great lives.”
Other facets he emphasized as crucial in life were hard work, trust and integrity.
“There is no substitute for hard work,” Stein said, “and likewise there is no substitute for integrity.”
Related to this hard work, he addressed involvement and participation.
“You cannot win if you’re not at the table,” Stein said. “You have to be where the action is.”
One avenue he suggested for those who do not know what to do in life is one that he also took.
“If you really don’t know what you want to do, go to law school and what you’ll learn in law school [are] habits of disciplined thought,” Stein said.
He also told a series of jokes, beginning with one about the king of Saudi Arabia who buys his son expensive items on his birthday-ending with a well-received jab at Bobby Bowden and Florida State University.
Stein concluded his remarks with a question-and-answer session, where, among other inquires, one student asked him to recite his signature line.
“Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” he droned to the crowd, which responded with applause and laughter.
Arriving early for the event, Stein spent much of the day around the university, eating lunch at the Rat and touring the University Center. In an interview with The Hurricane, Stein said he was well impressed with how lucid and articulate the students are on campus.
“I could see why people spend so much money to come here,” he said.
Stein added that he also felt very welcome.
“Everyone.made me feel as if I were a part of the Hurricane family,” he said.
Students responded to Stein’s oration by giving him a standing ovation.
“I really enjoyed it,” Joel Lopez, senior, said. “He gave advice about life after college. He also did it in a humorous way by saying what not to do. I think he appeals to a lot of young people also in his humor.”
Greg Linch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.