Dan Schulman

President and CEO of PayPal

May 10, 2022, at Middlebury College

Thank you, President Patton. I have been waiting a long time to properly thank Middlebury. Because the truth is that when I tried to get into college, I got rejected from every single school I applied to. I was even rejected by Rutgers University, where my mom worked as the associate dean of the graduate school of psychology. I mean, you don’t get more “legacy” than that.

So I spent time working after high school, driving a delivery truck, with a future that didn’t seem all that promising. And then Middlebury, for some unknown reason, took a chance on me. It’s been a long journey since then, and it is hard for me to believe that I am here, in front of all of you.

I also have to say that I wasn’t always the best student here at Middlebury. The proof of that was that I was also rejected from every graduate program I applied to coming out of Middlebury. But I did learn a few things while I was here. I learned from playing sports on these fields, from friendships I made on the campus, and of course I did my best to absorb some of what the faculty tried to instill in me. But honestly, it has taken a lot of time for what I learned here to take hold.

 I look out at all of you, and your families, and it is truly an honor to be here to celebrate and congratulate the great Class of 2022. You made it through an incredibly challenging four years. Right in the middle of your college experience, your world was turned upside down. One day you are in class, playing sports, dating someone, or at least trying to, and the next day you are at home, wearing a mask when you go out. Trying to figure out how to use Zoom, how to learn in an environment where your kid brother or sister is screaming outside your door, and adjust to having your parents around you 24/7.

You worried about your physical health, and everyone else around you. You were cut off from your friends, from family members, from those who you loved, and no doubt many of you had close encounters with those who got sick or even died.

And you can’t deny that the past years created immense mental stress. We had to radically readjust to a new world order. The economy rapidly went into a deep recession, unemployment skyrocketed, and family members and close friends lost their jobs, and wondered how they were going to get by. For almost two years, you and your parents had to deal with physical stress, mental stress, and often financial stress. So when I say congratulations to the Class of 2022, I mean it. You went through a time unlike any other in our recent history, and you were resilient and tenacious–and you made it. Everyone here, your parents, family members, friends, and the faculty are all so proud of you.

But here’s the thing, you are going to need the resilience and tenacity that you developed over these past four years. Because you are entering the real world, in a time that is full of challenges. We have a land war in Europe, something we hoped we would never see again. The ripple effects of the war are profound, and we will need to work on addressing their impact for years to come. Energy prices are skyrocketing throughout Europe and the U.S. Gasoline prices in LA are over seven dollars a gallon. Food prices are moving up quickly, as almost 30 percent of all wheat production comes out of the Ukraine and Russia. It is quite possible that an incremental 400 million people across the globe will go hungry next year as a result of the war.

Inflation is at 40-year highs, and the Fed and other central banks around the world are combatting that by raising interest rates at levels not seen for decades. And those actions increase the chance of a recession in both Europe and the U.S.

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