NMU graduation speech should be one worth catching

It’s a familiar tale but one that we never tire from telling: Local person does good. Or in this case, does phenomenally.

On May 6, that person will be speaking to the audience at Northern Michigan University’s commencement ceremonies, and we have no doubt those assembled will be inspired.

Negaunee native Jason Jennings — who is a bestselling author and internationally recognized authority on leadership, growth and innovation — will be the keynote speaker as a new set of people go from being students to becoming NMU alumni.

Jennings also will receive an honorary Doctor of Business degree during the commencement ceremony.

Jennings attended Northern for one year in 1970 before transferring to the University of Detroit Mercy, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Older area residents may remember him for his work in radio back in the early 1970s when he was known as Jay Jennings. That’s where he began his career, in radio and television, as a DJ and a reporter. Then Jennings became the youngest radio station group owner in the nation. He went on to found the media consulting firm Jennings-McGlothlin & Company, where his programming and sales strategies are credited with revolutionizing parts of the broadcasting industry.

His website biography states that Jennings’ “greatest thrill is helping lead individuals and companies to their full economic potential” and it has been in that effort he has become internationally known.

After a global search for companies that use speed as a competitive tool, Jennings wrote “It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small — It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow.” The book hit the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists and has been published in 32 languages.

Among his other books are “Less is More,” on the world’s 10 most productive companies; “Think BIG, Act Small;” “Hit the Ground Running;” “The Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change;” and, most recently, “The High-Speed Company.”

USA Today has ranked Jennings “one of the three most in-demand business speakers on the planet,” delivering about 80 keynote speeches each year. But it’s not just the world of business that has import for Jennings.

“The two most impactful and influential books I have ever read occurred as a result of being in a humanities class at NMU taught by Frumeth Siegel,” Jennings said in a news release from the university. “Those books — ‘Death at An Early Age: The Indictment of Inner-City Education’ by Jonathan Kozol and ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X,’ as told to Alex Haley — helped form me and my abhorrence of social injustice in any form, in any place or at any time.

“Speaking and acting out against social injustice is my most important life’s work.”

Family remains a vital element in Jennings’ life as well: when he is not traveling, he and his family split their time between the San Francisco bayside community of Tiburon and their lodge, Timber Rock Shore, on a small Upper Peninsula lake.

Jennings is something of a Renaissance man, enjoying studying and speaking languages and learning to play viola.

‘I have been known to spend a Saturday afternoon busking for dollars and coins at Fisherman’s Wharf with my teacher, long associated with the Young Musician’s Program of the San Francisco Symphony– he said in the university news release. “We give the proceeds to more talented and younger buskers. Our favorite genre is doing new arrangements of the most memorable hymns of all time, and the great love songs of the 1940s.”

NMU’s commencement is at 10:30 a.m. May 6 in the Superior Dome. For those who cannot attend, it will be broadcast live on WNMU-TV. The America One/B2 Networks will stream the ceremony live via the internet, in high definition, free of charge. Follow the link at www.nmu.edu/commencement.

We highly recommend catching Jennings’ speech to the NMU graduates. We know it’s going to be a dynamic one.