Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Professor Liz Fraley’s Fall 2018 Commencement Speech

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By Leah Teague & Stephen Rispoli 

Hearing the insightful and inspiring speech given by Professor Counseller at the Winter 2019 commencement, got us thinking about the speech Professor Fraley made at the Fall 2018 commencement ceremony.

Photo of Associate Professor of Law Liz Fraley Speaking at Baylor Law's Commencement, Fall 2018
Associate Professor of Law Liz Fraley Speaking at Baylor Law’s Commencement, Fall 2018

 Professor Fraley gave a less than conventional commencement speech, addressing the topics of failure and fear. She began by recasting failure not as a character flaw, but as part of life– that failing is proof that we are trying. She told the graduates, “Social media paints this glossy picture of a life where no one fails, no one doubts, no one struggles, no one even has a pimple, but that is not real.” Failure does not mean that you cannot succeed, but rather that you were trying something daring in order to make a change. “For a firework to light up the night sky, it has to explode. And so, too, will you need to spontaneously combust on occasion to see how bright a light you can be in this world.”

Professor Fraley told the graduates a story about the first case she lost. She had been on a streak of winning cases and thought she was invincible. Representing a defendant in a case with bad facts for her clients, an East Texas jury reminded her that no lawyer can win them all. She then told the graduates that she was feeling sorry for herself but had to get up the next day and had to go right back to work. At her first meeting the next day with an expert witness, she saw a daily quote calendar on his desk. “The quote for that day was, ‘success is not about how high you bounce, but high how you bounce back after you hit bottom.’” Professor Fraley told the graduates that she asked if she could have that page, he graciously agreed, and she kept it taped inside her top desk drawer as a reminder about what failure means and what success is really about.

Professor Fraley talked about how fear is failure’s best friend; that fear is there to tell you failure may always be around the next corner. Fear is there to make us doubt ourselves and think that we cannot do it, whatever “it” is. Knowledge and fear of failing comes because we care, and we dare. She credited Nelson Mandela for three principles she uses as guides for her life: 1) Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it, 2) the greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall, and 3) there is no passion to be found in playing small.

Professor Fraley told the graduates that “Out of this willingness to take risk and to fail and to fear comes growth.” Professor Fraley spoke to the graduates about watching them in class where they had to face fear and failure every day.  She noted, “you came back for more day after day. I don’t know whether you were brave or whether you were too afraid not to, and it doesn’t matter.” Professor Fraley left the graduates with a few final words of wisdom. “Fail mightily. Laugh at yourself when you do. Get back up and fail and laugh again and embrace the glorious mess that is being alive.”

Professor Fraley’s speech is embedded below:

-LT & SLR