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Advice for graduates, from a guy who got a second chance

Dear Graduates,

You likely don’t know me, but you should listen to a few things I have to say. But first, who am I?

I am Dick Wallrath, a man who needed a second chance in life and received one. A big one.

Who are you? You’re the future. You’re the Graduating Class of 2013. 

You can count on the fact that life will surprise you.

I’m on the far end of a long road you’re just starting.

And I’ve learned some important lessons. Here they are:

1. No one’s past can control your future.

I was raised in Central Texas in a tough home. My alcoholic father was physically abusive and for a while, his past controlled my future. 

I grew up just like him, and my own alcoholism and violent temper cost me everything. Family. Job. Hope. Until faith in God, the kindness of someone who took a chance on me, and hard work, finally broke the cycle. 

I wound up in my own business, a pretty successful one. I restored relations with many in my family. 

I won’t soft sell. I had big problems. But God is bigger than the past, anyone’s, including mine, and your future is bright.

2. The future holds surprises. 

It’s not that I lost everything and got back a few things. My “second chance” surprises everyone in its sheer audacity. 

As a businessman and rancher, even after a slow, hard start, I’ve given millions in scholarships to young men and women in Texas through 4-H and FFA. 

You know where your road starts. You can’t know where it leads.

Some folks made a movie of my life and Val Kilmer co-starred in it. You can’t make this up or predict it. But you can count on the fact that life will surprise you. 

Some bad surprises: the death of my daughter—a true ray of sunshine—to illness. But many good surprises: Success. Love. The joy of giving.

3. Whatever you choose, hard work is required.

You’ll be blessed, too. Unexpectedly. Sometimes, extravagantly. 

If you want to make the most of your blessings, it takes hard work. 

I learned to work at business, at marriage and at family. 

Even after things turned around, I had to work hard to keep them turned around. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing bad about that, either. Expect it. And do the work required.

4. If you fall, you can have a second chance.

Life throws circumstances your way. Some you don’t ask for, and don’t look for. Some you walk right into—eyes wide open. But circumstances don’t just happen to you. You happen to them, too.

In every circumstance you have a choice. When times are hard, and some will be, remember the law of second chances. 

You always choose how you react. Always. And if your choices turn out wrong—and some will —have faith. 

Trust God. Work hard. You will receive a second chance.
I did.

Dick Wallrath is a rancher, business owner and recovering alcoholic who lost everything. Through his faith in God and hard work he received a second chance at life. His Richard Wallrath Educational Foundation, has given more than $16 million in scholarships to young men and women in Texas 4-H and FFA organizations. The recent film "Deep in the Heart"  is based on Dick’s true life story.