Keep Your Eye On The Bumper

In a commencement speech, Ruth compares NASCAR racing to entering the work force.

Date of speech

Welcome; I am honored to be asked to speak to you today. You have worked so hard to achieve so much. Some of you have overcome obstacles that I can’t begin to comprehend. The sacrifice, determination, and persistence required to finish the course will continue to serve you well in the years to come--- if you will commit to remember the lesson!!!

I have found that turning those hard earned experiences into stories helps me remember the lesson. So I would like to tell you a story with a lesson.

Intro: The lesson could have been learned from a lot of sports, but my sport of choice is NASCAR. Any race fans here?

(((Describe the track –1.5 oval with steeply banked curves and a wall around.)))

Story: I love racing so much that my husband bought me a pass to the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

“Get off the sidelines and into the race.”

I had every excuse not to schedule the class- time, childcare, weather...fear!

“What if I fail? What if people see me fail?”

Fortunately, there was an expiration date on the pass! On the day of the class; weather perfect, crowds large, sign away, suit up, get a few lessons,  

“Keep your eye on the bumper in front of you and your foot on the gas.”

Drive; set aside fear, pride (fear of failure), doubt (ability to finish)

  • Lap 1- get adjusted, notice everything (fit of the car, wall, speed..)
  • Lap 2-8- Eye on bumper in front and foot on gas, felt safer up close

Reaction;  Exhilaration  “Wow! I did it!”

Others asked about wall, “All I saw was 1-800-BE PETTY"

Centrifugal force? “All I saw was 1-800-BE PETTY”

Other cars on the track? “All I saw was 1-800-BE PETTY”

As an added bonus, I had the fastest time in the class!


What’s the lesson in this? We all have a purpose in life, a race to run. You have already joined the race by returning to school to complete your degree. You overcame fear, pride, doubt and discomfort and ran your practice laps. Now it is time to race! But whose bumper will you choose to follow while you continue to develop your skills? Does it even matter? YES!

Rookies learn early on that following an experienced driver keeps them from making as many needless mistakes. They acquire knowledge and skills that the veteran had to develop over time. But mostly they acquire wisdom.

  • Wisdom about how their chosen profession gets things done.
  • Wisdom about what is valued and what is not.
  • Wisdom that helps them rise above their peers and get noticed.
  • Wisdom that enables them to thrive in a difficult personal environment.

Wisdom, with hard work, is often what separates the truly successful people from those who just get by. So, whose bumper will you follow? Will it be a parent or relative? Teacher or friend? How about a hero from history or leader in your field today.

The point is to choose, and choose carefully. Because, when things get scary or uncertain, when you want to quit and get out of the race, when it looks like you’ll never get ahead, this is the bumper that will keep you off the wall, in the curves, and ahead of the pack.

The bumper I have chosen comes from the Bible. Hebrews 12:1-2 “Since we are surrounded……………………………….”

You are already on the track, suited up and ready to go. Now……


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