Editor's Note: As the 2012 graduation season winds down, we at YoungEntrepreneur.com thought it fitting to check in on the commencement addresses given by some of nation's top entrepreneurs. Here's the fifth installment in a week-long, five-part series on top tips from entrepreneurs' commencement addresses. Click here for inspiring words from Oprah Winfrey , Mike Bloomberg , Salman Khan and Eric Schmidt.
Seven years ago, Luma Mufleh was in the same position as many of those to whom she spoke at Mills College’s commencement ceremony in Oakland, Calif., on May 12. Like them, Mufleh faced the same seemingly unanswerable life questions that often shadow new graduates. Are my parents right? Can’t I do this on my own? Will I ever amount to anything? What is my purpose?
While it’s not an easy time in anyone’s life, new graduates will encounter innumerable possibilities, says Mufleh. But it’s up to you to be bold and make them a reality, she adds.
For her part, Mufleh started up Fugees Family, Inc., a Clarkston, Ga.-based nonprofit organization that endeavors to help young refugees from war-torn places including Afghanistan, Kosovo and Somalia. In addition to giving local refugees the opportunity to play soccer in an organized setting, she also started an after school program to help fill in the education gaps that may exist when immigrants come to the U.S. In 2004, Mufleh also started Fresh Start for America, a cleaning service that provides immigrant and refugee adults work opportunities that pay more than the minimum wage. In 2007, she handed over the ownership of that company to her employees.
“I never had this incredible plan for what to do, but the kids and families taught me what was needed. They showed me that you can’t survive on minimum wage in this country. They showed me the racism and classism in this country and how ugly it can be. They showed me the disparity in their educational opportunities. And most of all, they showed me it was far from OK,” Mufleh said in her speech.
No matter if you aspire to follow in Mufleh’s footsteps of social entrepreneurship, regular entrepreneurship or a career, here are her four principles to live by:
- Cherish your friends. Your shared experiences in the last four years will bond you for life.
- Don’t let setbacks and failures define you. Let them shape you and make you a better person. In your upcoming years, some of you will get fired from a job. Some of you will have businesses that fail. Some of you will go through a divorce, and some of you will — if you haven’t already — get rejected by your top graduate school. But guess what? The world will not end. Life will go on, and everything will work out fine.
- Find your own passion. Explore different opportunities. But keep in mind that it will take a long time to find, so don’t get discouraged.
- Don’t take the easiest path placed in front of you. Be open to a path that’s not so clearly and neatly carved out. And remember, you rock. Life is going to be OK. People love you.
Below, see Mufleh’s unedited speech: