"It Was A Near Run Thing"

The following remarks were given by Frederick W. Smith at University of Memphis graduation on May 3, 2008 at FedEx Forum. Smith, the founder and chairman of Memphis-based FedEx Corporation, received an honorary Doctorate of Letters.

"Let me thank my wife and mother who are in the audience. And let me thank the members of the FedEx team. It is really their efforts and their achievements that resulted in this recognition today, particularly the 36,000 fellow Mid-Southerners who work for the FedEx companies.

I am enormously proud of the University of Memphis under Dr. Raines' leadership. It is fast becoming one of the great universities in the world in every respect. Every great city in modern times is marked by a great university. And the University of Memphis, I am confident, will go on to even greater achievements in the years to come.

"I congratulate each and every one of you in this audience on the hard work that went into the awarding of these degrees. And I recognize the extraordinary effort on the part of the faculty and staff to produce educated people like this audience.

"I would like to mention a couple of other groups who sometimes at graduations do not receive the recognition that they deserve. To the long-suffering and long-paying parents, of which I am one, I want to quote a famous politician's saying to you: 'I feel your pain.' As your child graduates, I hope you will have that sense of euphoria that comes from knowing that your cash flow is about to improve substantially.

"And finally, to those of you who may not have achieved great things in academia, just remember the immortal words of one of the great English heroes, the victor at the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington. Afterwards, when he was being honored as a hero, he said, 'it was a near run thing.' So for those of you at the bottom of the class, the anchor man and the anchor woman, take heart at Wellington's words. And good luck to you."

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