This is the accessible text file for CG Speech GAO-06-1035CG 
entitled 'Making a Difference in Life: Jacksonville University 
Commencement Ceremony' which was released on May 6, 2006. 

This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part 
of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to 

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately. 

Presentation by The Honorable David M. Walker: Comptroller General of 
the United States: 

Making a Difference in Life: 

Jacksonville University Commencement Ceremony: 

Speech before Jacksonville University: 

Jacksonville, Florida: 

May 6, 2006: 

United States Government Accountability office: 


President Romesburg, members of the Board of Trustees, the faculty and 
the administration, graduates, ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to 
be with you today. President Romesburg, thank you for that kind 
introduction. I'd like to thank you, the Board of Trustees, the 
faculty, and the students for the opportunity to speak today and for 
the honorary degree that you have awarded me. I'd also like to 
recognize my wife, Mary, who's also a JU grad, my parents, my brother 
Rick and his family, and other friends and relatives who are here 
today. Thanks to all of you for coming. 

It's hard to believe, but 33 years ago in April, I was sitting with 230 
of my classmates under these same trees waiting to graduate. I was 
receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting that day, and I 
remember how anxious I was to start my new job at Price Waterhouse. 

We had a commencement speaker that day as well, but initially I had 
difficulty recalling who it was. After checking with JU, they confirmed 
my recollection that it was the Reverend Billy Graham! Frankly, if I 
had difficulty remembering a household name like Reverend Graham's, 
it's highly unlikely that 33 years from now, you'll remember my name! 
Even so, I'd like to take about 10 to 15 minutes to share a few words 
with you. 

Candidly, I came to JU somewhat by accident. When I graduated from high 
school in 1969, I had congressional appointments to the Naval and Air 
Force Academies but at the last minute I couldn't go because of a 
hearing loss in my left ear. At the time it was real blow, but things 
have worked out over time. After all, I became a general anyway. And 
while there are lots of military generals, there's only one Comptroller 
General of the United States at a time, and you're looking at him! 

JU may not be as well known as the service academies or other big-name 
schools, but I can tell you that JU gave me a solid foundation on which 
to build my professional career. The same can be true for each of you. 

In addition to the fact that I earned an accounting degree here, JU has 
been an important part of my life for another reason. I met my wife, 
Mary, at the NCAA finals when JU lost to UCLA for the national 
basketball championship. I'm proud to say that Mary and I have been 
married more than 30 years. Over the years, we've been blessed with a 
daughter--Carol--and a son--Andy--and so far they've given us three 
wonderful grandchildren. 

It really doesn't seem all that long ago since my graduation. While 
I've lost a lot of hair over the years, I've gained a lot of knowledge 
and experience. 

As I look back on my career, and you prepare to embark on yours, I 
thought I'd share with you three truths that I've found to be timeless. 

The first truth is that in the United States, any person with a good 
education, a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, and solid moral 
and ethical values has virtually unlimited potential. Your degree from 
JU means that you're off to a solid start. The rest is up to you! 

Do your best to make a positive and lasting difference in whatever you 
decide to do in life. Remember that when each of us leaves this earth, 
the two most important things that you'll leave behind are your family 
and your reputation. 

The second truth is that life is full of challenges. In facing 
difficult decisions and situations, I've found comfort, support, and 
guidance from three things that are larger, and stronger, than any of 
us as individuals. These three things are God, family, and country. 
I've also found that in dealing with life's challenges, it is highly 
desirable to have a set of core values to help you sort through things 
and arrive at sound choices both quickly and confidently. 

I'm a strong believer in having a set of values both for institutions 
and individuals. Core values serve as a set of positive beliefs as well 
as prudent boundaries that can help you throughout life. 

When I came to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 1998, 
one of the first things I did was introduce a set of three core values 
to define the nature of our work, the character of our people, and the 
quality of our products. GAO's three core values are: accountability, 
integrity, and reliability. If you come to Washington, you can see them 
over the entrance to GAO's headquarters. These core values are on the 
cover of every report GAO issues. More importantly, they are in the 
hearts and minds of our employees. 

In the private sector, we've seen what happens when individuals and 
institutions lack or stray from a set of core values. At Enron, 
Worldcom, and other companies, unethical behavior led to bankruptcies 
and earnings restatements that have harmed countless shareholders, 
employees, and retirees. People lost their investments, their jobs, and 
their pensions. Public confidence took a big hit, and it's going to 
take years to rebuild that trust. 

My personal core values are courage, integrity, creativity, and 
stewardship. By courage I mean speaking the truth and doing the right 
thing even though it may be difficult, unpopular, or countercultural. 
By integrity I mean practicing what you preach, leading by example, 
delivering on your promises, and remembering that the law represents 
the floor of acceptable behavior and not the desired state. Each of us 
should strive to heed a higher calling and do not just what's legal but 
what's right! By creativity, I mean finding new ways to address old 
problems and helping others to see the way forward. Finally, by 
stewardship, I mean not just trying to generate positive results today 
but also preparing for a better tomorrow. After all, each of us should 
seek to leave our organizations, our families, our communities, and our 
country not just better off than when we became involved but also 
better positioned for the future! 

This brings me to my third and final truth. Beyond discharging your 
family and work responsibilities, every American has an opportunity and 
an obligation to become a good public citizen. At an absolute minimum, 
each of you should vote. Voting is a right that's very easy to take for 
granted. But keep in mind that it's also a right that many Americans 
have fought and died for over the years. 

In addition, even though we don't currently have a national service 
requirement, I'd urge each of you to give at least two years of your 
life to public service. Those years could be spent in government, with 
a charitable or public-interest entity, or elsewhere. Frankly, now more 
than ever, your country, your community and your fellow citizens need 

From a national perspective, while the United States is currently the 
only superpower on earth, at least one more country will join us by 
2020. And while we may be number one at some things, I'm sad to say 
that we are below average among the world's industrialized nations on a 
range of economic, social, and environmental outcome-based statistics. 
For example, the United States, which gave the world Thomas Edison, the 
Wright brothers, Jonas Salk, and Bill Gates, now ranks 22nd and 25th in 
the world on science and math test scores, respectively. We can and 
must do better. 

Our nation also faces a range of emerging challenges, including a very 
serious and growing fiscal imbalance that could swamp our ship of state 
if we don't get serious soon. For example, in fiscal year 2005, the 
federal budget deficit was around $318 billion on a cash basis and a 
record $760 billion on an accrual basis; $760 billion translates into 
an over $2 billion deficit each day and expenses of $125 for each 
dollar of revenue. 

As scary as these numbers are, it's the U.S. government's long-term 
commitments that are the real problem. I'm talking about things like 
promises for future Social Security and Medicare benefits and a range 
of other unfunded commitments and contingencies. Last year, the 
estimated future costs for these items exceeded $46 trillion, up from 
about $20 trillion just five years ago. 

What does this mean for you and me? The fact is that every full-time 
worker in this country now faces a financial burden of $375,000, and 
that burden is growing every second, of every minute, of every day. I 
was thinking about passing the hat today to help with our nation's 
deficit but figured that between student loans and credit card debt 
most of you probably have your own financial challenges! 

But seriously, when it comes to entitlement reform and other key 
issues, it's clear that our elected officials need to start making some 
tough but necessary choices, and soon. Otherwise, you and your children 
will pay an even higher price and bear even greater burdens in the 
years ahead. 

To address this and other challenges and capitalize on related 
opportunities, we need to overcome the triple threats of ignorance, 
apathy, and inaction. Unfortunately, these three conditions are 
currently very prevalent within the public, and especially among many 
younger people. The truth is that we're going to need top talent from 
your generation to help us overcome our many challenges and capitalize 
on emerging opportunities. 

Ultimately, each of us needs to do what we can to ensure that the three 
most powerful words in the Constitution come alive. Those three words 
are "We the People." After all, in our republic, the citizens bear the 
ultimate responsibility for what does or does not happen in Washington 
and the various state capitals around the country. If each of us does 
his or her part and encourages others to do theirs, our future and the 
future of our families and our country can be even brighter than it is 
today. If we don't, we'll all pay a big price. Namely, we'll face 
slower economic growth, a lower standard of living, and even possible 
threats to our long-term national security. 

We can, we must, and ultimately we will address this challenge. After 
all, this is America! We've successfully addressed many challenges in 
the past, and anything is possible in this great land. At the same 
time, the sooner we do so, the better because time is working against 

A few final words of advice. In choosing a career, I'd urge you to look 
beyond the bottom line. A job that plays to your strengths and 
interests is more likely to make you happy, and you're more likely to 
be successful, than a job that simply provides you with a paycheck. In 
my experience, following your inner compass is the surest way to 
realize your full potential. 

The motto of the philosopher Socrates was "know thyself." Nearly 2,500 
years later, this motto is still pretty good advice. Understand your 
own values, motivations, abilities, limitations, and interests. What 
causes inspire you? What individuals do you hold in high esteem? 
Answers to these questions are the keys to unlocking your future. 

In closing, as my favorite President, Teddy Roosevelt said, "Fighting 
for the [right] cause is the noblest sport the world affords." As you 
leave here today and continue your journey in life, don't forget to 
pick your cause and fight to make a real and lasting difference not 
just for today, but also for tomorrow. You'll be glad that you did, and 
so will others. Who knows, 33 years from now, it may be one of you 
who's up here speaking to JU's graduating class! 

Congratulations graduates, good luck, and may God be with you. 

On the Web: 

Web site: [Hyperlink,]: 


Paul Anderson, Managing Director, Public Affairs,, 
(202) 512-4800, U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, 
Room 7149, Washington, D.C. 20548: 


This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. The published product may be 
reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission 
from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or 
other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary 
if you wish to reproduce this material separately. 

GAO's Mission: 

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of 
Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional 
responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability 
of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use 
of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides 
analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make 
informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO's commitment to 
good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, 
integrity, and reliability. 

Obtaining Copies of GAO Reports and Testimony: 

The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no 
cost is through the Internet. GAO's Web site ( ) contains 
abstracts and full-text files of current reports and testimony and an 
expanding archive of older products. The Web site features a search 
engine to help you locate documents using key words and phrases. You 
can print these documents in their entirety, including charts and other 

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and 
correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as "Today's Reports," on its 
Web site daily. The list contains links to the full-text document 
files. To have GAO e-mail this list to you every afternoon, go to and select "Subscribe to e-mail alerts" under the "Order 
GAO Products" heading. 

Order by Mail or Phone: 

The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 
each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent 
of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or 
more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. 
Orders should be sent to: 

U.S. Government Accountability Office 

441 G Street NW, Room LM 

Washington, D.C. 20548: 

To order by Phone: 

Voice: (202) 512-6000: 

TDD: (202) 512-2537: 

Fax: (202) 512-6061: 

To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Federal Programs: 


Web site: 


Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470: 

Public Affairs: 

Jeff Nelligan, managing director, 

(202) 512-4800 

U.S. Government Accountability Office, 

441 G Street NW, Room 7149 

Washington, D.C. 20548: