Be a superhero: 4 characteristics that will fuel your personal origin story


On May 9, I had the honor and privilege of delivering the graduate commencement address at Baldwin Wallace University (BW).

I was thrilled that BW asked me to speak. I consider it a great compliment to Hyland and a testament to how highly regarded our company has become in our community.

And I will admit that, while I enjoy public speaking, this occasion was rather daunting. I wanted to share something that would be inspirational and memorable to help set the graduates off on the right path.

I told graduates I wanted them to become superheroes. It sounds a little silly, but I meant it.

I think the reason superheroes are so popular in our culture is that, in superheroes, we see the human ideal. We see a combination of the most admirable traits people can exhibit, and we see the best we can imagine ourselves being.

How do ordinary people become superheroes? By choosing to develop and embody four distinguishing characteristics:

  1. Extraordinary ability
  2. Moral conviction
  3. Great courage
  4. A mission to serve

These four traits enable remarkable achievements and are the foundation of personal greatness.

To me, superheroes aren’t fictional characters, but real-life people with the capacity and determination to change things that need to be changed and to help people who need help. Mahatma Gandhi, Florence Nightingale, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela were all superheroes.

But the list of real-life superheroes also includes a lot more people who aren’t nearly as famous. Two superheroes I personally know: A teacher of mine at St. Ignatius High School, Jim Skerl, who passed away late last year, and my long-time friend and colleague, A.J. Hyland.

Real-life superheroes: It’s a choice
All of these great people made the choice to become superheroes. I told graduates they could make that choice too.

They could choose to develop their own extraordinary abilities through focus, discipline and perseverance.

They could choose to have moral conviction by developing a personal code of conduct that they don’t deviate from.

They could choose to serve by framing their goals in terms of helping as many people as they can and making a positive, lasting impact on the world.

And they could choose to act with great courage by stepping forward in the face of the fears we all have, saying what needs to be said, and doing what needs to be done.

I hope my message resonated with the graduates, many of whom I suspect viewed a graduate degree as a step toward make a significant, positive impact on the world. They know, as we know, that in reality there is no Superman who’s going to come along and save us, and that any force for good, or force for change, will have to come from us.

If you have 13 minutes to spare and are interested, go to BW’s website to check out my talk. Let me know what you think. Thanks for your time.

Bill Priemer

Bill Priemer

Bill Priemer is president and chief executive officer of Hyland. Bill joined the company in 1997 as vice president of Marketing. He was promoted to Vice President of Sales &... read more about: Bill Priemer

1 Response

  1. Avatar Allyson Presley says:

    Love this! Title caught my eye because the National Customer Service Week theme this year is Everyday Heroes. I am on the Customer Service committee at my institution and am always on the look out for customer service information and inspiration. Excited to listen to the graduation speech next! Thanks!

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