By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
MOLINE, Ill. — “Be passionate. Be true. And be open to the wit and wisdom others have to offer,” Samuel Allen told graduating students from St. Ambrose University during the commencement address May 11 at the Tax Slayer Center in Moline. Allen is the chairman and CEO of John Deere.
Nearly 600 students graduated from the university, which is based in Davenport. Allen said that for 130 years St. Ambrose has “cast a gracious and benevolent light on this community’s educational landscape, producing class after class of outstanding graduates.” He noted that more than 800 employees at Deere are proud St. Ambrose alumni. About 175 additional students are presently attending classes at St. Ambrose and working with Deere & Co. “No question the school ranks as an important source for recruiting and development talent,” Allen said.
He noted that St. Ambrose has a strong grounding in the liberal arts. “But you’ll be a more well-rounded individual, a more skilled engineer or lawyer or accountant and a more valuable multi-faceted member of society because of what you learned about the arts and humanities during your days at St. Ambrose.”
He encouraged the graduates to never lose their capacity for enthusiasm. Attitude and achievement, if not twins, are certainly siblings. When people fall short of their professional potential, “it’s not because they lack the skill to do their jobs. Rather, it’s because they lack an understanding, or proper mindset, about what it takes to succeed and get ahead.”
Allen noted that at one time while working for John Deere he got demoted. “I made sure to put forth my best effort and keep a positive frame of mind. And you know what? Better opportunities followed. I never gave up on John Deere because I never lost faith in the company or the way it treated people or the impact it made on society.”
He encouraged the graduates to make their voices heard, be choosy and be part of an organization that reflects their interests and reinforces their beliefs. “Then reciprocate and apply those same principles in the way you show up and do your job each and every day.” Allen also advised the graduates to not compromise their values.
“If I could impress one bit of advice on you — and only one — it would be this. Don’t allow yourself to become a part of this age of moral relativism. Values are timeless. Right and wrong are immutable, absolute qualities, about which there is nothing sexy or stylish or trendy.”
To get ahead in life, “never stop learning.”
Allen credits his pastor for counseling him to make a positive contribution to not only customers, employees and investors but to society as a whole. “It was my pastor’s counsel that helped spark a major expansion of John Deere’s volunteerism program. And it led to my personal involvement in Habitat for Humanity, a local food bank and our company’s outreach program for small farmers in India.”
Whether at the twilight of a career, the first foot of the ladder or the pinnacle, one of the best ways to continue developing is to seek advice and the counsel of others and to commit to a lifetime of learning, Allen said.