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Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley Urges Every American to be a Public Servant in 2009 Convocation Address

AUSTIN, Texas-- May 27, 2009-- Urging graduates to believe in the power of the individual to enact change, former Senator Bill Bradley delivered the 38th convocation address to the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs Class of 2009. Before a capacity crowd of nearly 800 friends, family and well-wishers, along with 194 graduating students, Bradley expressed the importance of public service and the relationship between politics, the private sector, and non-profits as we look at the roles of every American as a public servant, capable of influencing profound change.

 “Think of America as a three-legged stool,” said Bradley. “One leg is the private sector, the second leg is the public sector, government and politics, and the third leg is the non-profit, NGO sector. Each of those legs has a different ethos and a different story.”

 Bradley went on to describe each sector, focusing most heavily on the area of non-profits  and NGO’s.

 “The third sector is where we live our lives,” said Bradley. “The ethos there is to give with no expectation of return. It’s a story that conveys that one person can make a difference no matter what you do.”

 Bradley called on the graduating students and members of the audience not to give into complacency and abdicate their roles as true citizens.

 “A true citizen doesn’t retreat into his or her private peace when the price of public silence is that society’s big decisions are made by fewer and fewer peoples,” said Bradley.

 Bradley went on to share anecdotes of one person making a major difference through commitment and being “annoyingly persistent” in reaching their goals from his radio program “American Voices” on Sirius/XM radio

 One story was of Jody Williams, an average woman from Vermont who joined forces with two other individuals to try and have a worldwide ban on land mines. Jody Williams and her two colleagues managed to get a treaty signed by 154 countries banning land mines and won a Nobel Prize in the process.

 Bradley told another story of a woman who wrote a letter to Mother Theresa, asking to come to Calcutta to volunteer. 

“After months the woman received a letter back from Mother Theresa and it said ‘Find your own Calcutta,’” said Bradley. “Each of us can find our own way to serve.”

Bradley harkened back to the three-legged stool analogy and expressed a hope that we as a country could learn to live with an “ethic of connectedness.”

 “The stool doesn’t stand on one leg or two legs,” said Bradley. “It needs all three. That’s the same with our country as a whole, and, increasingly, it’s the case of the world."

 Bradley ended his address with a quote that he described as one of the most memorable statements he has ever read.

 “’The tragedy is not to die,’” quoted Bradley. “’The tragedy is to die with commitments undefined, with convictions unexpressed, and with service unfulfilled.’ I hope you leave here with clearly defined commitments, with the courage to express your convictions, and recognize that what is ahead of you is a lifetime of public service. You simply have to find what is the right way to do it.”