Jessie's Major Keys To A Lit Lifestyle at the University of Maryland Journalism Commencement

Adopted from a graduation speech at the University of Maryland. 

Faculty, students, parents and staff, good morning. How is everyone doing? My name is Jessie Karangu. I’m a Kenyan American, which means I have Kenyan roots but I was born in the U.S. I’m not lying, and I have the birth certificate to prove it.

On a serious note, it is an honor and privilege to be here. I especially want to thank my family and friends who are here to support me. My mom and dad, who have shown me so much love and tender care, I will forever be indebted to you. I want to wish my mom a happy birthday, and I hope this is a cool birthday present.

He’s not here, but I want to acknowledge my brother. He has autism and is non-verbal and he is my hero. The reason I fought so hard to be on this stage was for you, and although you may never understand this message, I love you. I want to thank my barber for this fresh hair cut. Finally, I want to thank Google. Without you, I wouldn’t be here. None of my research papers would’ve ever been finished, and I probably wouldn’t sound as smart as I do.

Anyway, dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate a momentous occasion. It is the day our parents are finally free of the financial bondage known as a college tuition. And they finally get to kick you all out of their houses. Well, except for you mom and dad. Breaking news, this just in: I’m living with you for another six months. Sorry.

But it is also the first day of the rest of your lives. In the short amount of time we have left, I want to give you Jessie’s Major Keys To Living A Lit Lifestyle. And yes, I just talked about myself in third person, and it was lit. For those of you who have no idea what lit means, it’s something the kids say nowadays, and it is defined on as something that is amazing in any sense.

The first major key to a lit lifestyle is to be spontaneous. Be willing to try new things. Some of you are about to move to some of the most boring places this country has to offer. Let’s keep it 100. But you are also going to meet some amazing people with unbelievable stories and exuberant pride of where they’re from. Take your new adventure in stride, and don’t be afraid to explore your surroundings. Trying different things when you move to your new location, because it is the only way you’re going to be able to develop the bonds and relationships that make you good at your job. You need to know the grocery store everyone shops at, the high school football team everyone roots for, the church everyone goes to, the bar everyone drinks at (might I add for research purposes only), the road that has the most traffic, and so on and so forth. Also, don’t forget to be spontaneous with the way you reach your audience. There are so many platforms out there these days, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder,, Ok, I don't know about the last three. We live in a world of mass disruption, and you need to be on as many platforms as possible to spread your reach.

The second major key is to do your research. Know your facts. You are the world’s watchdogs, so you need to be able to explain complicated subjects to the average human being. As cliché as it sounds, the five P’s are key: Planning and Preparation Prevent Poor Performance.

And if there is any fact that you should carry with you wherever you go and no matter what story you do, here it is. Beyonce is one of the greatest things to happen to humanity. This is just common sense. It’s the perfect conversation starter.

The third major key is that success must be a lifestyle. You must walk, talk, breath success. You’re going to have some of the worst hours humanly possible. Friends are gonna wanna catch up, family is going to want to celebrate holidays with you, your girlfriend or boyfriend is going to have your hotline blinging (for the grown folk that means that their girl or boyfriend will calling non-stop trying to spend time with them), but to be honest, in these first three years of post-grad life, you’re not going to have time for that.

In order to become successful in the first place, you need a plan. A man without a plan is a man planning to fail. Everybody wants to be successful, but no one wants to put the work in. That’s not how it works. You have to desire it, you have to want it in your soul. Everyone has the same 24 hours. It’s all about what you do with your time. Just remember while you’re sleeping, someone is working.

The fourth major key is to be you. There’s a reason a news director or newspaper editor decides to hire you over someone else. It’s because you are you. You have a certain skillset, a certain personality and certain vibe that only you possess. Whatever it is that makes you the perfect you, embrace it! My godmother Oprah Winfrey (or at least she’s my godmother in my head), has this great saying. We often block our own blessings because we don’t feel inherently good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or worthy enough. You’re worthy because you were born, and because you are here. You alone are enough.

In your worst days, will make you feel dejected. I started my own publication on campus known as Pulsefeedz, the heartbeat of campus news, with my friends Lauryn Froneberger, Andrew Horn and Breana Bacon (Kofi Osei-Tutu is my co-founder). At different points in time, we broke controversial, polarizing but truthful stories that would always receive some of the worst comments in Internet history. And I can’t lie -- those were the days where it really made me question whether I’m ready to be brutally criticized by people I didn’t know for doing my job. Without the support of my fellow members as well as fellow web editors like Kofie Yeboah, Michael Stern, Iman Smith helping me through the process, I don’t know where I would be. There are going to be tough days in your newsroom when you don’t get along with everyone and people aren’t feeling you, for whatever reason. Maybe you make a mistake and everyone is looking down upon you. Or maybe you get an email from a viewer or reader talking about how much they hate you. You can’t dwell on the negativity. You have to be confident in who you are as a person and what your abilities are. Make sure you also have a support system to have your back.

I will leave you today with words of wisdom from one of the greatest philosophers in American history – all I do is win, win, win no matter what, got money on my mind I’m not ever giving up. As journalism majors, you probably don’t have money on your mind, but I know all of you are winners -- especially with the degrees you are about to receive. When someone tries to tear you down, brush your shoulders off, dab on them and move on. Be confident in your skills and and your abilities. Be breezy, God bless and follow me on Twitter at @JMKTV.