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Tagliabue speaks to Saint James graduates

June 03, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

SAINT JAMES

Paul Tagliabue knows leaders when he sees them.

During his 17-year tenure as commissioner of the National Football League, Tagliabue had a front-row seat to watch Joe Montana, Brett Farve and John Elway lead their teams to Super Bowl titles.

Tagliabue had a similar vantage point Sunday as he got a good look at the likes of James Knable and Brittany Olenczak. This time, Tagliabue was catching a glimpse of the leaders of the future.

Tagliabue spoke during the outdoor graduation ceremony on the central lawn of Saint James School. By his account, the event was only the starting point for future leaders to shape a new world for generations.

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"You need to realize that the world you are entering is radically different than the one I entered when I was sitting in your seats," said Tagliabue, who resigned from his position as head of the NFL last September.

Tagliabue is credited with leading the NFL and professional football into a position of national dominance. He helped the league expand, not only in team membership, but in its view on the world stage.

A similar globalization is in store for today's graduates, he said.

"Make it a top priority to understand the new world and lead in it," said Tagliabue, a 1962 graduate of Georgetown University.

"When I graduated from high school in the late 1950s, the so-called Space Age was just beginning. My high school yearbook speculated in primitive ways of how space travel and exploration would change the world. Now, all nations are connected by the Internet. Wi-Fi is everywhere, from Starbucks to any other place you might want to frequent. Satellite GPS helps us find our way. We are a long way from speculating about the Space Age."

Tagliabue told the graduates to take three steps to help ensure they are ready to meet the challenge of being the world's new leaders.

"How can you prepare to be the future generation of leaders? Remember the world is not the same as it was before," he said. "Expand your horizons vigorously by living and studying in unfamiliar places. And study history passionately."

Change is everywhere and it is constant, Tagliabue said, using sports as an example.

"When I was growing up, there were no Major League Baseball teams on the West Coast. Nobody was playing in San Francisco," he said. "Before that, Chicago was considered the far west. Back then, Afro-American athletes were just getting the chance to play.

"Today, the faces and places of Major League Baseball have changed. It is now a global talent pool. Last year, a large percentage of players were from foreign lands - all names that were unknown when I was sitting out there."

Tagliabue spoke of similar cases for female athletes and their opportunities to play and compete nationally and internationally. He also pointed to the worldwide thrust of the National Basketball Association and the NFL.

Tagliabue recommended the graduates take the time to experience events through another person's eyes and fortify them by understanding the history of areas like Gettysburg, Pa., and Jerusalem. Gettysburg was the hallmark in the Civil War in the fight for equality for all men and women, while Jerusalem is where the values of Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity were forged, he said.

Tagliabue admitted that attacking the new ways of the world is an undaunting task, quoting President John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

"That quote is more important than ever because know it will be played out on a much larger stage than before," he said. "Your parents and teachers know that you are up for the task. Go forward now without fear and provide extraordinary leadership for the generations ahead as leaders, teachers and healers. Godspeed."

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