Morgan inspires graduates with humor, wisdom in FAMU commencement speech

Commencement speaker John Morgan mixed humor and wisdom in his address.
Photo by Glenn Beil/FAMU Office of Communications

By Andrew J. Skerritt
FAMU Office of Communications

Attorney John Morgan, recent commencement speaker at Florida A&M University, exhorted fall graduates with a mixture of humor and wisdom.

Addressing approximately 600 graduates from the University’s dozen colleges and schools in Lawson Center, the founder of Morgan & Morgan law firm shared time-honored aphorisms he hoped graduates would use as they make their way in the world.

“There’s a big difference in dreaming and living your dreams. My hope is that you get to live your dreams. Visionaries are a dime a dozen. The vision maker is the rarity; that is the person who lives their dreams,” said Morgan. “Living your dream is very hard. There are vision blockers who try to keep you still for many reasons. Some of our friends and relatives would rather a total stranger win the lottery than you.”

A native of Lexington, Ky., Morgan moved with his parents and siblings to Orlando, Fla., where he attended high school. After graduating, Morgan enrolled in the University of Florida. He graduated from the UF College of Law in 1983. Five years later, he founded Morgan & Morgan with the mission to represent the people, not the powerful. 

“Without question, John Morgan has established himself as a preeminent legal leader and a friend of FAMU,” said President Larry Robinson, who awarded Morgan the President’s Award. 

During his 20-minute speech, Morgan regaled the audience with the story about the 1975 Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier heavy weight championship boxing match, “the Thrilla in Manila” and the lessons each fighter learned. 

“When things get tough along the way and you don’t think you can go another step, remember that story and answer the bell,” Morgan said referring to Ali’s historic victory. Having led a successful national law firm for more than three decades, Morgan reminded graduates of the need to set their priorities straight. 

“Your future is whatever you decide to make it,” Morgan said. “When money guides you, you make less money. Greed is not good. Be driven by purpose and passion. If you love what you do, the work the hours will just breeze by.” 

Failure can be helpful, Morgan reminded graduates. He cited the experience failing to get a medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the first try with 58 percent of the vote, which was less than the two-thirds majority required for adoption. On the subsequent attempt, the measure garnered 72 percent of the vote. Morgan said he was inspired to push to legalize medical marijuana by the fate of his brother who was quadriplegic following an accident and endured years of debilitating pain.  

“The lessons in a failed attempt are building blocks in your next adventure. In life, you need to accomplish success, but you must also seek significance. At the same time, failure can be your friend,” Morgan continued. “Go change the world; dare to be great; do good and do well; dream it and do it. Show up; be early; be great. Find purpose in your passion. And always answer the bell.” 


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