Fall 2023 commencement speaker encourages graduates to remain determined to realize their destiny

Grambling, La. – December 15, 2023 – Keynote speaker Eric Kelly talked about determination, destiny, and creating a unique pace for success Friday morning as he served as keynote speaker during Grambling State University’s Fall 2023 Commencement Exercises in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.


In his current position, Kelly oversees a portfolio of technology companies comprised of Overland Tandberg, a global Hybrid Cloud software and infrastructure enterprise where he led the public to private company acquisition; Bridge 2 Technologies, a next-generation SAAS software enterprise; OT Global Technologies, a global IT solution provider, and OT Global Protection, a healthcare technology company.


Those companies manufacture, develop, service, and operate in more than 100 countries.


“I’m here to deliver a message of determination, destiny, and what it means when you hear the phrase ‘in the room where it happens.’ I want you to take a look around. You are in the room where it is happening,” Kelley said. “And from this point forward I want you to be determined that you are always in the room where it happens.


“And if necessary, like today, create the room where it happens. It’s up to you to continue your legacy of making your mark on the world as GSU Tigers by using the network and larger surrounding ecosystem.”


Kelly then pointed out the significance of earning a college degree.


“Graduating college is a monumental experience and an accomplishment worth celebrating,” Kelly said. “Now I know tomorrow you will start a new chapter, but before you do I want everyone to understand that graduating college today has catapulted you to an elite status. This is a status that less than 7% of people in the world achieve.”


“I think when I was sitting in my seat like you are today, trying to spot family and friends and take over the world, or at least my world as I knew it. Back then, technology was a burgeoning idea well on its way to being one of the leading industries in the country as well as the world. The world of technology is not slowing down. In fact, it is accelerating.”


Kelly then pointed out some similarities that nearly all major technology companies share.


“For one, they were started by people who were aged from 20 – 30,” Kelly said. “In addition, many of the founders were not technologists. Some didn’t finish college. … But the combined value of these companies is over $7 trillion.


“Now it’s your turn to become the leaders of tomorrow. You already have the foundation, the intellect, the creativity, and the GramFam network to be able to succeed. I’ve been in the tech industry for 40 years. It doesn’t mean I know everything, but I have learned quite a few things on my journey, spanning from working in the (President Barack) Obama administration to being one of the only African American to be chairman and CEO of two publicly traded companies. But the most important thing about my journey is that I didn’t get here alone. I had help and I still do.”


Kelly then reminded the graduates that they have help, too.


“Being members of a close-knit Grambling community, where everybody is somebody, as you go out into the world, move forward with the conviction of those who laid the groundwork of support, courage and vision before you,” Kelly said. “Confidence in knowing you already have everything it takes to begin your journey.


“Be sure to invest in your network because your network will become important toward building your net worth. You should always use setbacks as welcome opportunities to perfect your skill set or pivot altogether. It is simply not enough to have a vision of a dream without the will to create an action plan and work on that plan day in and day out. Strategy without execution is a daydream. And execution without strategy could be a nightmare. No matter what you decide to do next, success looks different on everyone.”


He also talked about the importance of values.


“Define your values,” Kelly said. “The sooner you can define your values regardless of what career path you decide to embark on, the sooner you will begin walking the talk of your vision. Values are directly connected to your behaviors and how you will carry yourself throughout life.


“When your values are set, no one can tell you who you are except you. Establishing a solid set of values will help you be bold and create your own career path.”


Kelly told the graduates playing “the long game” is another key to success.


“This means embracing the world of technology,” Kelly said. “Your generation is uniquely positioned and positively equipped to accelerate your careers through technology. The world of technology as we know it today revolves around speed — everything we do now seems to be happening at light speed.


“Playing the long game for people in my generation means playing chess, not checkers. Playing the long game means you’re strategizing on the mark you’d like to leave on the world, your legacy, your imprint and your influence. Playing the long game also makes your vision sustainable for years to come.”


Kelly’s last piece of advice to the graduates was to embrace the unknown while keeping their foot on the gas.


“Most leaders at the top of their game do not know it all,” Kelly said. “What they don’t know, they hire experts on their teams to bring them up to speed and get the job done. Keeping your foot on the gas does not mean that every day you’ll be going 80 miles per hour. Some days it may be 60, while others you might slow down to 5 (mph). And there will be days where you will need to stop and park the car completely. The point of the matter is to keep going, but go at your own pace.


“Do not get caught up in the timing of others’ success, because your path is unique to you, and that is exactly why you are so valuable to the world.”


Dortavia Barnes of Tallulah, a criminal justice major from Tallulah, Louisiana, was GSU’s valedictorian after posting a 3.84 GPA and earning President’s List accolades every semester she studied at GSU.


Barnes plans to go on to law school and become a criminal defense attorney.


GSU President Rick Gallot also conferred a posthumous bachelor’s degree to Glencie Q. Metz, who passed away on June 22, 2017, at the age of 19.


Two of GSU’s graduates — Amayah Joseph and J’Hada Satterfield — were also honored with ROTC commissions and will enter the U.S. Army as second lieutenants.