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Virtual Commencement 2020

May Commencement 2015 Speech: Bre Pettis

Welcome and congratulations to today’s graduates and your families.  This is an exciting time in your lives and I am very honored to be here with all of you today to celebrate your accomplishments and to accept this honorary degree.

I would like to thank SUNY New Paltz, President Christian and the SUNY Board of Trustees for nominating and selecting me for this special recognition.

I’m a tinkerer and an entrepreneur and a former school teacher.  I’m emboldened by creativity and innovation, and inspiring those traits in others.

As you prepare to leave New Paltz, you will face one of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest opportunities: it has never been a better time to do ANYTHING.

This isn’t easy because it would be much easier to just be told what to do or have limited options.  But you are entering the world when the limits on your opportunities are limits of your ability to plumb the depths of your soul and explore your passions.

If you are interested in chainsaw art, there is an online community that is there to help you learn how to do it and run your own chainsaw art business.

If there is infrastructure for chainsaw artists to do their thing, there is infrastructure to help you develop your thing, whatever it is. 

You are going to have an impact because you are ready to use the brand new tools and infrastructure available to you and apply them to any problem.

You are going to seriously mess with the old systems that aren’t ready for the speed that you can reach.  One of your biggest problems will be with so many options available to you, how do you pick one and how do you keep from getting bored with your choice. 

I wanted a 3D printer, but couldn’t afford one.  So with minimal business experience, I started a company, MakerBot, and made it my mission to change the pace of innovation by creating 3D printers that are affordable and accessible.  The changes we’ve seen in the speed of innovation show there’s a lot of change in the world.

With traditional manufacturing the prototyping stage often takes more than a year.  In the old world, you came up with an idea, modeled it, had a prototype made, evaluated it and did it again and that would take about a month just for one iteration.

Now with a MakerBot at your desk or with access to the SUNY New Paltz MakerBot Innovation Center, you can have an idea and be 3D printing a model before the day is finished.

In fact, you might be able to get a couple of iterations made in a single day. This shift from iterating multiple times per year to iterating multiple times per day gives you the ability to iterate much much faster, to have many more failures and fix lots more mistakes by trying and trying again.

Just like with 3D, you need to anticipate failure and embrace failures as critical lessons and prepare to rebound and not repeat mistakes.

It’s never been easier to develop a product.  Besides 3D printing, the electronics and the code that runs on the hardware are available and can be learned by anyone with a computer and a will to do it.  Embrace the new tools available and the new approaches that have emerged in the internet age.

If you don’t have the time to learn how to do something, the tools like Facebook, Linkedin and other social networks are available for you to find the people you need in your extended network to help you solve interesting problems. 

This type of accessibility and infrastructure goes beyond product design and is infiltrating and disrupting all industries. 

And the time is ripe for you to take advantage of these opportunities, no matter what career path you pursue or the many diverse positions you may hold in the future.

There are many who are scared of letting you into the world.  They are worried they won’t have jobs for you, that the old world won’t know what to do with you.

I’m not worried about any of that.  You have the ability to become the people you need to be to solve any problem or make anything happen.

Many people in your life will hope that you land someplace comfortable, that you’ll find something for work that is a direct match for your skills.

I don’t wish comfort for you.

I encourage you to challenge yourself, to always be searching for how you can improve and challenge those around you to push harder and farther.

I can’t wait to see what happens as you unleash your power into the world. 

Congratulations on all that you have achieved and good luck with all of your endeavors.