By SHEA STASKOWSKI
Nationally acclaimed journalist and Mississippi State alumnus Sid Salter spoke with candor to deliver a meaningful message during the fall commencement ceremonies Friday night in the Humphrey Coliseum.
Salter, a Philadelphia native, had a strong message for the roughly 1,200 graduating students.
“As I look out into the faces of the graduates here in the Hump, I remember the words of the late writer and poet Carl Sandburg, who said on the occasion of his 85th birthday in 1963: ‘Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you,’” Salter said.
Salter recalled his freshman year at MSU in 1977, and how he came to college with “big dreams, but with little awareness of what it took to turn dreams into reality,” he said.
He told stories of his successes of his youth listing milestones such as meeting or interviewing every president since Jimmy Carter, appearing on every major national television network, crossing the Iron Curtain prior to it’s collapse and even possessing the cell phone number of John Grisham.
“I tell you those things not as pompous bragging, but as preface to the real point of my remarks tonight. How marvelous it would be if that litany of achievements and dumb luck was the end of the story, but it’s not,” he said.
“For every success I’ve enjoyed, every achievement, there have been failures, disappointments, heartaches and mistakes. Such was life for me — so will it be for most of you.”
As the 2004 MSU Alumni Association Alumnus of the Year reflected on his years at State and early career, he admitted he had spent too much time sleeping, “so, my gentle exhortation to you is: “Wake up!’”
“For in pursuit of professional success, I missed time with my family,” Salter said. “At 24, I rationalized that the time I missed with my family would ultimately be in their best interests. I was wrong,” he added honestly.
Salter repeated Sandburg’s words once more before admitting he is a self-professed gifted obituary writer, and told the graduating students that what matters to people is how they are remembered. He asked the students to think about how they will be remembered.
“Those choices rest solely and completely in your hands. You have youth and time on your side. You have intelligence and ability,” Salter said.
Before he departed, Salter again quoted Sandburg and proposed a challenge for the students to sincerely thank those who made their graduation possible, to take an active role as a committed alumnus and to “give back and to make ‘True Maroon’ more than a YouTube video slogan. Make it the creed you live by,” he said.
Salter is the youngest person ever inducted into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame and has covered news in Mississippi for more than 34 years.
Salter is the two-time recipient of the MPA’s J. Oliver Emmerich Editorial Excellence Award, a syndicated newspaper columnist since 1983 and is a political talk radio host.
He is currently the Perspective section editor at the Clarion Ledger.