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The Importance of a College Education

By Sol P. Ajalat, Esq.

T26 -Ajalat The following is a perspective of an individual who has graduated from UCLA with degrees from the School of Public Health and the Law School along with 50+ years experience as a practicing attorney. The discussion is limited to a college education as everyone is aware of the necessity for a grammar and high school education.

Education has been said to be a form of learning in which knowledge is transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, and research. This differs from an individual learning through the processes of trial and error which may involve greater time consumption and risk of error in achieving a particular goal.

A college education is essential to a productive and happy life. Right? Wrong! Then, at least a college education is essential to a successful vocational career. Right? Wrong! Oh, the sole and simple purpose of a college education is to learn more about certain things. Right? Again Wrong! Needless to say each of the foregoing may be achieved without a college education. Well, why is it that one’s parents are so often insistent that their children get a college education which today is so expensive, concentrated, and time consuming? Just what is involved and why?

Think of an athlete who undergoes extensive, time consuming, and concentrated training to develop his muscles, speed, and coordination. Like your muscles, the brain requires training to develop the strength, speed, and the coordination of its thought processes. This training is most effective when it is concentrated and involves the consumption of facts drawn from a multitude of life’s experiences. By doing so the ultimate objective is not merely to learn and be able to regurgitate facts but something far more important. It is to enhance one’s ability to read comprehensively and listen intensely as well as to analyze and reach highly accurate conclusions. Simply stated the primary purpose of a formal education is or should be to develop the student’s ability to THINK thereby enhancing their decision making processes.

I wish there were time and space to say more. Oh! There is one thing that needs to be said. You need to be a “brain” to go to and finish college. Right? Wrong! You need to be determined, unyielding, and willing to work hard.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky: A Few Words for Graduates

(Taken from recent commencement remarks at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication, May 17, 2013)

T26-Yaroslavsky EducationAs you prepare to take your place in the world, you and your peers are poised to become the leaders of tomorrow. I’d like to share some thoughts about leadership, drawing on some ideas put forward by two extraordinarily successful leaders I’ve been privileged to know, the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, and Steven Sample, the immediate past President of USC.

Coach Wooden is celebrated for his achievements in athletics, but to me, he was also a life coach and a philosopher.

President Sample is the man who led USC into the 21st century with soaring academic achievements and an extraordinary commitment to his community around the campus.

I offer this small sampling of their nuggets of wisdom by which leaders should be guided.

“Character,” Wooden said, “is more important than reputation, because reputation is merely what other people think of you; character is what you really are.” He also reminded us, “You are your word. Don’t give your word unless you intend to keep it.”

Dr. Sample, in his book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, urges leaders not to form an opinion about an important matter until all the relevant facts and arguments are in. A leader who jumps to a conclusion before hearing all the facts will, more often than not, regret it. Leaders command a stronger and more loyal organization when their team members know that their opinions will be heard and valued, even if they are contrarian points of view.

Sample counseled us to become artful listeners – and, I would add, respectful listeners. Leaders learn from listening to their subordinates. And he advised that leaders should surround themselves with the kind of smart and talented subordinates whose skills complement and compensate for the leader’s own shortcomings.

Sample and Coach Wooden both agreed that great leaders give credit to others, but accept the blame themselves. Leaders who fail to grasp this elementary principle will not long command the respect and loyalty that effective leadership demands.

Today, your schooling is formally completed, and I warmly congratulate you on that outstanding accomplishment. But let me conclude with some final advice from the great American humorist and author Mark Twain, who cautioned, “Don’t let your schooling interfere with your education.” Now, your real education begins, as you embark on the next chapter of your lives.

I wish you an abundance of character and wisdom. Good luck to each and every one of you.

Councilmember Tom LaBonge to the Leaders of Tomorrow

T26-LaBonge EducationTo the graduates of the Class of 2013: Congratulations on all that you have achieved. You have combined hard work, perseverance, and drive to make it to this day. Your paths are diverse but the result is the same: today you are a graduate.

As you move forward and onward and upward, never forget to continue to love and enjoy this great City of Los Angeles. This city has given us so much, and I hope that you are always able to give back.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Education

T26-Villaraigosa EducationEducation is, and always has been, the cornerstone of our future. It opens new doors of opportunity for all and allows students to dream bigger and achieve more than they ever thought possible. Whether it’s graduating from high school or college, this time of year reminds us of the importance of education and the life skills gained through the practice and pursuit of knowledge. The diploma is an important step in a lifelong learning process and an honor truly worthy of praise. I commend all the graduates of the Class of 2013 and wish you the best of luck wherever your futures may take you.

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