Graduates: I Want You To Go Viral

Tomorrow is my graduation day – rain or shine – at California Lutheran University!  CLU opens up submissions for graduation speakers.  While I was not selected, I wanted to share my original submission as I feel it applies to all.  I hope you will consider joining me and going viral!


What a privilege it is not only to be standing before you today, but for all of us to be in a position to receive advanced degrees of knowledge. From masters and doctoral programs, we made it.  But I want to challenge you to take this even further – and consider taking your leadership to the online space.

shutterstock_83821315I want CLU and each one of you to go viral.  I want this graduation ceremony to be felt across the globe and to inspire future graduates to pursue this exact moment.  I need you to join me as digital leaders and educators.

Our programs lasted two or three years, and in that time the world around us has changed.  We live in a quickly evolving technology fueled global society, with how to live in the digital space much an effort of trial and error.  I highly doubt that any course of text you were assigned explored your upcoming role as an online leader.

However each of you have learned skills at CLU that are transferable to leadership on social digital communications tools like social media.  The very mission of the university speaks to these skills, “to educate leaders for a global society who are strong in character and judgment, confident in their identity and vocation, and committed to service and justice.”

Taking this mission to that virtual space can create a viral sensation unlike any cat video on YouTube can produce.

But some of you may scoff at this message, choosing to avoid social media applications.  After all, we all get to make our choices about how we are put ourselves out there in the digital space.

So I’ll point again to the university mission, calling us to stay connected to our global society. From Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, social media applications are becoming more and more intertwined into the fabric of daily life.

If you don’t think they are relevant to you, I guarantee that they are to future generations, especially those I serve who are college students.  And, like us, they too are figuring out these tools from trial and error.

During the trial and error phase, we find mistakes.  Social media posts gone viral for all the wrong reasons.  A post on a social media now has the potential to ruin your career, family and future.  As leaders we need to do something, we need be brave and make our mark online.  We need our actions to speak louder than the noise of the web.

I need you to be digital leaders.  I need you to go viral.

I travel throughout our country speaking to college students, university administrators and faculty about social media strategy and digital leadership.  For every positive story of social media use for social good that I can dig up, I find 20 more stories of digital fails.

I need you to be digital leaders.  I need you to go viral.

Digital leadership doesn’t mean using Twitter for your presidential campaign or becoming the next YouTube sensation.  The simplest version is finding a platform that fits with your personality where you can send out as much positive messaging as possible.  Each of you are role models in both your professional and personal lives.  Now being distinguished with an advanced degree places you in an even more critical position.  The world is paying attention and as a leader you want it to be for the right reasons.

Leadership is built around inspiring others for action.  Now though social media our messages can be heard beyond this campus, beyond the 101 freeway and over the Santa Monica mountains.  Leadership online builds movements using moments, just like right now, to inspire.

And that is how we will make this graduation ceremony a positive viral movement.

Take out your phone.  Yes right now, I’m giving you permission. I know you have them on you!  Open up your favorite app, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat – and post in 140 characters or less the magic of this moment including the hashtag #CLU.  Even better, because we are looking amazing in these hats and robes – get together – that’s right CLU is about community and we’re going to show it off.  It’s time for a selfie or even take a picture of the stage or the people behind you.

shutterstock_166339421Such a simple act – with the possibility for impact online because it is in the moment, positive and genuine.  Going viral online doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Taking leadership viral is global – open to possibilities for connections around the world.  It is a very exciting time to be alive – and even more exciting on graduating today.  Our ability to share our stories – to share our passions and make an impact has never been so accessible.

This is not a trend.  It’s not about a tech bubble that will burst.  This is life.  Online is becoming face to face and vice versa.  The landscape of leadership is changing.  If you have not already felt it, it is coming.

The good news is that CLU has equipped you with all the skills you’ll need to flourish in this exciting new era.

My posts reads, “I <3 #CLU for giving me the courage to find my calling and to take my leadership viral.”

Now my fellow graduates, it’s your time.  Be the positive force not just in our traditional jobs and circles of family and friends.  Take it online.  Inspire the world.  Go viral.

Digital Hugs,

Dr. Josie Ahlquist, CLU 2015


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