Buffett to graduates: ‘There’s never been a better time’

Billionaire investor, philanthropist and Husker alumnus Warren Buffett told the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s December graduates to look for careers they’re passionate about and to keep learning.

The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1951, recently participated in a recorded phone conversation with Chancellor Ronnie Green that served as the keynote address during the university’s virtual graduation celebration Dec. 19.

Buffett said he enjoyed every minute of his time at Nebraska. He transferred to his home-state university after two years at the Wharton School of Pennsylvania and said he had terrific professors at Nebraska who not only imparted knowledge, but had a rapport with students. He said the business skills he picked up at the university have given him a competitive edge throughout his career.

Buffett also said that he owes his existence to the University of Nebraska. His parents, Howard and Leila, met while working at The Daily Nebraskan.

The 90-year-old said he would gladly trade places with any of the new graduates.

“They feel they’re going out into an uncertain world and all of that, but there’s never been a better time,” he said.

Buffett told the graduates to look for the job they would take if they didn’t need a job.

“(You) won’t necessarily find it on your first job; I mean, you’ve got to make a living, too,” he said. “But don’t settle for anything, eventually, that’s less than working for a company you admire or people you admire, and really the job that if you had no need for the money, it’s still the job that you’d jump out of bed for in the morning.”

He said he’s been lucky to have a job like that and there’s nothing like it.

Buffett also told the graduates to develop good communication skills — both writing and speaking — and to fill their heads with knowledge.

“It is such a wonderful time in life to have every day end up knowing a lot of things you didn’t know the day before,” he said.

Buffett said the Husker graduates he’s seen are outstanding and that it makes him “very bullish on the world.”

He said he has been dealt a “winning hand” — being born in Nebraska, having the parents he had and receiving the education he did — and that the new graduates hold similar hands.

“Now that doesn’t mean that every single day is perfect — the world isn’t that way — but try to think of another country where you’d rather be, try to think of another era in which you would rather exist,” he said. “I don’t think you can do it.”

Asked for the best way to keep learning throughout life, Buffett said nothing beats reading. He said by reading, people can “have a very long lunch” with some of the greatest minds in the history of the world. He said a family member once called him “a book with legs” but that it’s fun to learn.

Ultimately, Buffett said having the love of one’s family and coworkers is a good way to measure success.

“I’ve seen loads of people who had maybe more talent, more money, more fame, but if they didn’t have that, it was very hollow,” he said.

The university conferred 1,404 degrees during the virtual celebration. The 1,382 graduates are from 42 countries, 36 states and the District of Columbia, and more than 150 Nebraska communities.

Green, who hosted the program, noted that the university has now awarded more than 300,000 degrees in its 151-year history — “a proud milestone, to be sure.”

By Sean Hagewood University Communication December 19, 2020