Remarks As Delivered:
Congratulations to the Hofstra graduating class of 2018!
Some of you achieved this in 4 years, or maybe it took you longer, but you didn’t stop. You didn’t quit. And you’re here today because of it.
What a terrific testament this is to your intellect and creativity and, especially, your tenacity.
When I look to hire someone for my own company, I always put a premium on a candidate’s CQ and PQ — their Creative and Passion quotients — above their IQ.
And the fact that you are graduating from this esteemed institution means that you have them all…So, kudos to all of you for this tremendous achievement.
I am not a graduate of Hofstra, but my company headquarters is just down the block and I’ve been engaged with the university for years, as a neighbor, supporter and collaborator.
So, I am incredibly humbled to receive this honorary degree and speak this evening.
I know that prior recipients of this honor have included everyone from human rights heroes, like Dr. Martin Luther King, and entertainment icons, like Long Island’s own Billy Joel.
These are people whose “acts” are impossible to follow. So, forgive me if I seem a bit nervous.
But it’s not just because I’m hearing the footsteps of those bold-faced names, not to mention three presidents and an astronaut.
No, tonight, I’m feeling a bit nervous because I’m literally one of the last speakers between you and the next phase of your lives.
As I was writing these remarks, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own graduation from Clark University nearly thirty-years ago.
In my last semester of college, I was absolutely positive that I knew exactly what I was going to do.
I was going to go to be a lawyer.
I was also going marry the woman that I had been dating since high school.
I had everything figured out.
My mom was thrilled when I was accepted to law school.
She proudly wrote me a $200 check to reserve my spot.
But then, as graduation day approached…I realized that I didn’t want to become a lawyer.
I also realized that I was actually in love with one of my best friends from college…not the girl that I had been dating for the past six years.
You can imagine the look on my mom’s face when I gave her back that check for $200…at my graduation dinner no less! NOT one of my finest moments!
Or imagine the look on my “friend” Debby’s face, when I told her that I was really in love with her!
Without a doubt, that was my finest moment!
Debby and I have now been married for over 26 years, have three beautiful children, and she remains my best friend to this day! Love you Deb!
As for turning away from a career in law, I decided to try my hand in my family’s real estate business which worked out pretty well …and mom, I hope you have finally forgiven me? Love you mom!
So, as you all sit here this evening, while you might believe you know what your future holds, I assure you that the only certainty is uncertainty.
Life’s journey is inevitably a long, winding and unpredictable path.
So, avoid becoming a prisoner of the past, but instead, see yourself as a pioneer of the future.
And as the circumstances around you inevitably change, see it not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity.
And always, always keep moving forward.
Make it a point to regularly check the pulse of the current state of play or, as I like to say, “regularly recalibrate reality.”
This ability to adapt is in many ways embedded in all of OUR DNA…it merely needs to be uncovered.
After all, once upon a time, my grandfather had a modest business manufacturing light-weight aluminum art easels. Yes, you heard me right…art easels!
There is an oft-told family story of when my grandparents trekked to Brighton Beach for the day.
We actually have film footage of this monumental moment:
My grandfather was schlepping two heavy wooden beach chairs through the sand when my grandmother screamed:
“Schmuck! Why are you making aluminum art easels when you should be making aluminum beach chairs?”
My grandmother and grandfather realized it was time to recalibrate realty.
Shortly afterwards, he filed a patent and a lucrative, and a life-changing business was born.
To me, “Regularly Recalibrating Reality” means recognizing change and having the conviction to change your own approach.
It means accepting that what worked yesterday may not work today.
And it means accepting that what works today may not work tomorrow.
So, as you go forward, I encourage you to be bold enough and fearless enough to write your own 21st Century playbook.
If your bosses don’t respect that, then you are working at a company where you aren’t likely to have a job much longer — because the business isn’t likely to be around much longer.
Now, if you indulge me for a bit, I want to leave you with a few other lessons I’ve learned since my own graduation 30 years ago.
One of these lessons is to always “stay humble and stay hungry.”
When you are on top, stay humble. When times are tough, stay hungry, and fight your way back to the top!
We have a saying at RXR: “Success isn’t owned. It’s leased, and rent is due every day.”
Or, as my father in law likes to tell me: “Some days you’re the top dog and some days you’re the fire hydrant.”
In other words, never become complacent or take your success for granted.
For in today’s global 21st century economy, this is a lesson that rings truer than ever.
The rate of change is unlike anything you, or I, or anyone else has ever experienced.
Think about it — ten years ago no one would have believed that the world’s largest taxi company wouldn’t own a car…the world’s largest hotel chain wouldn’t own any hotels…and that the world’s largest retailer would barely own a single physical store.
You know them as Uber, Airbnb and Amazon.
In the blink of an eye, one’s success…or failure, can change in an instant.
Yes, today you’re a college graduate and the last thing you want to think about is studying, but if you are going to stay ahead in this fast-moving world you can never stop being a student.
If you want to live a rich, meaningful life, homework and tests are just a way of life!
My final RXR-ism for the evening — the one that drives all the others — is this:
“Doing Good and Doing Well means Doing Better!”
And I believe it has never been more important to see doing good as inseparable from doing well.
We all have a responsibility to be stewards for the long-term vitality of our communities.
That means more than just giving money to a worthwhile cause but actually giving yourselves — your time and passion.
Charity should be a habit of a life time. And so should public service.
You just can’t wait for others to lead.
Each and every one of us has a responsibility to do our part to make the world a better place.
It’s incumbent upon all of us, particularly those in the public eye, to fill the void of leadership and speak out on social and even political issues.
Issues like diversity, immigration, gun safety, and voting rights. Issues that business leaders have typically shied away from.
We especially cannot remain silent when it comes to bigotry of any kind.
Our strength is in our diversity and it is what makes America truly great.
We should celebrate this diversity as if our social and economic lives depend on it. Because they do!
The world is changing like never before and in today’s technology-advanced economy, standing still is really moving backwards.
So, while I know there is a tremendous anxiety about the future with advances in automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics, I truly believe that we will all be better off in the long-run.
But there will also be plenty of disruption, along with plenty of displacement and despair.
We’re already seeing that play out today — inequality is as wide as it’s been in a hundred years.
Wages are stagnating, while the cost of living, from housing to health care, has done nothing but rise.
Suicide rates, drug overdoses, and hate crimes are climbing and life expectancy is declining.
We’ve become numb to the notion that someone can walk into a school and murder our children before our very eyes, and we are doing almost nothing about it.
And it seems that not just our leaders, but ordinary Americans can’t seem to talk to each other in a civil, constructive way, much less come up with a solution to our nation’s ills.
With apologies to Charles Dickens, I guess you can say this is the best of times and the worst of times.
An era of great hope and an era of despair.
But let me tell you why I have great hope.
Even as technology has established insecurity and impermanence as facts of life, there has never been a time when young people have had so much potential to change the world.
Technology has empowered the individual to take any dream and turn it into a reality.
From climate change to fighting against the plague of gun violence, it’s your generation that is leading the way.
There is a graduate here tonight…maybe it’s one of you…hopefully it’s all of you… who will help change our world for the better.
Every single one of you has the power to do just that.
But in the words of a great American hero, the one and only Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
And, as the late Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote: “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.”
We all have a responsibility to be engaged and to actively participate in making our communities better places — for everyone.
And that is how we can solve our nation’s challenges.
There are no shortcuts. There is no magical app. And there is no single individual.
It’s all of us, working together as a community, that will make the world a better place.
I leave you with one final story.
In 1888, wayyyy before you got your news online, an industrialist opened the newspaper one morning and saw his own obituary.
He was stunned — not only because he wasn’t, well, dead but because of what it said.
He was described as the “dynamite king” — the wealthy inventor of the world’s most powerful explosives.
In that moment he made a decision — he did not want to be known for the destruction left from his own invention.
So, he decided to use his wealth to set up a prestigious prize that to this day recognizes the world’s best efforts in literature, science, economics, poetry and peace.
The Nobel Prize.
Alfred Nobel chose to be remembered not for his invention of destruction but for his recognition of life’s greatest inspirations.
Please, don’t wait to see your own obituary before thinking about what you want your legacy to be.
Regardless of what you do with your diploma, choose how you want to be remembered and live your life accordingly. Live your life for your legacy.
Once again, congratulations to all of the graduates and your families and thank you, Hofstra University!
The RXR platform manages 61 commercial real estate properties and investments with an aggregate gross asset value of approximately $18.5 billion, comprising approximately 24.4 million square feet of commercial properties, inclusive of a multi-family residential portfolio of approximately 2,600 units under operation or development, and control of development rights for an additional approximately 3,700 multi-family and for sale units in the New York Metropolitan area. Gross asset value compiled by RXR Realty in accordance with company fair value measurement policy and is comprised of capital invested by RXR and its partners, as well as leverage.