Jonny Moseley was the keynote speaker at Berkeley's May
17, 2002 Commencement Convocation, an event that honored the
estimated 10,000 students who became eligible during the school
year for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Below is the text
of Moseley's speech.
Complete coverage of the Convocation and ongoing graduation
ceremonies will be published later this week.
Thank you. When I was asked to speak here Iím sure my reaction
was a lot like yours. What? They want me to speak at UC Berkeley?
Does that mean that Maya Angelou is going to speak at the X-games?
I mean, Berkeleyís reputation is world renowned and this school
has always been close to my heart. In fact, today Iím fulfilling
a lifelong dream to participate in Calís commencement. I feel
deeply honored at your invitation to speak here. I can remember
the last time UC Berkeley contacted me, it was through the admissions
department, a letter, something reading "Dear Mr. Moseley,
we regret to inform you..."
I have to say that I am humbled by the company that has come
before me. Famous diplomats, politicians, former members of
congress, each of whom has given previous classes a glimpse
into their lives in an attempt to educate and inspire.
Iím sure many of you out there could step up here and teach
us some profound lesson that youíve learned in your lives about
happiness, love, struggle, hope, fear. These are all timeless,
universal themes and every one of your stories is somehow sacred
in that respect.
The first Olympic games that I competed in marks the beginning
of my story. Technically, this was a very successful Olympics
for me. My focus was clear, I trained in a mechanical way. I
studied former Olympic champions over and over and over again.
I did my research, I had the right coach, I had the necessary
support, I had a clear goal. I basically had a mouthful of cliches
that you hear every champion recite over and over and over again.
I was working hard, perfecting my craft. In the end, my performance
could not have been scripted any better. I skied down the hill,
did a spectacular move I called the three sixty mute grab, and
snatched up the gold medal in perfect Hollywood form.
Next, I hit all the talk shows, enjoyed all the parties, signed
endorsements, made money. I was doing all the things that made
me feel important and successful. I was constantly happy because
people were constantly reassuring me of my "righteous self."
As time went on , the intensity of the praise and recognition
started to fade and as a result, so did my happiness.
So there I was, two years after the Olympics, my celebrity
dwindling, satisfaction waning. I needed a fix. I think if someone
would have said to me that I was the definition of a Narcissist
I would have blown it off and considered them jealous.
In the book, The Culture of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch,
a Narcissist is defined as someone who "depends on others
to validate his self esteem. [and] cannot live without an admiring
audience." Although I really had no idea at the time, narcissism
was the essence of what prompted me to return to the 2002 Olympics.
I knew that with merely an attempt to return I would get at
least some of what I wanted. A line of ink somewhere. I rationalized
my Olympic bid with all sorts of pragmatic and noble reasoning.
I told myself that it would be good for my career, attract more
endorsements, even progress the whole sport. The fact is, I
craved personal recognition.
I began training for the 2002 Games. I was doing all the things
I did in 1998. I wanted to put together a performance that would
win over the judges, the crowd, the TV audience and the hardcore
skiers. I knew from my experience in í98 that I had to not only
be fast and exciting but I also had to do something unique.
I noticed before that I received a lot of praise for my gold
medal, but it was amplified by the 360 mute grab, the trick
by which my performance was remembered. This time around, in
order to get that recognition I so craved, I decided to use
a trick I called the Dinner Roll.
The Dinner Roll is a trick I developed for the í99 X-Games.
Itís a 720 degree off axis rotation, wherein you ski off the
jump, do two full rotations, one on the horizontal plane and
the other on the vertical plane. At the X-Games where everything
is "extreme" and "rad" the jumps are big,
and you have lots of time in the air. The Olympic moguls course
is a whole different ball game. Itís steep, with tight turns,
and a small narrow technical jump, with an unforgiving landing.
The trick was so new that we had to appeal to the Olympic Skiing
Federation in order just to do it. We had to show them that
it fell within their rule stating "no inverted tricks in
the moguls" and also prove that it was not dangerous. After
lobbying and video explanation we pushed it through by one vote,
much to the chagrin of the European countries.
My Olympic campaign now consisted of plenty of media, great
endorsements and the new controversial half-baked Dinner Roll.
I was on cereal boxes, ringing the opening bell of the Stock
Exchange, doing TV commercials, everything was coming together.
I was getting my fix of admiration and recognition. But as I
began my final training preparation, the run that I had wanted
to do so badly was not ready. The overly hyped Dinner Roll was
being panned by the media, underappreciated by the judges, and
even written off by my fellow competitors. It was at this point
I reconciled myself to the fact that I may walk out of the Olympic
arena having impressed no one but myself. My upcoming performance
took on a new feeling. I no longer was competing for them. For
the first time, it became personal. I went to work on my new
obsession...the Dinner Roll. With ten days until the Olympics,
after a lifetimeís worth of concussions and a new helmet, the
trick started to click. I went from landing three out of fifty,
to stomping almost every single one.
I showed up at the Olympic course and stood in the gate with
a smile on my face. As the announcer counted me down, I waved
my poles at the crowd already feeling a sense of happiness and
I pushed out. Flawless to and off the first jump, I made my
way to the second jump and I was all over it. I nailed it. It
was the best Dinner Roll I had ever done. When I crossed the
line I knew I had skied the run of my life. As I stood at the
bottom of the course and watched my standing fall from first
to second and so on, I held my breath to see how I would feel.
In the end the judges gave me fourth, and you know what? It
was a great day.
Mr. Lasch says "instead of drawing on our own experience,
we allow experts to define our needs for us, and then wonder
why those needs never seem to be satisfied."
My friends, today the experts give you your diploma. Iím not
telling you to go for fourth place, but I encourage you to be
free in the way you measure your success. I donít claim to know
what it will be like to be in your position, but I know that
when you leave here, grades will be handed out differently.
Your ability to gauge your success will largely depend on how
you perceive it. How you choose to perceive it is entirely up
to you. Your perception of this intangible ideal called success
is something you can control. You can shape it, set it up, feel
it, and define it. Allow competition to turn inward. If you
do not depend on awards, money, or other validations to dictate
your well-being and your measure of success, you will own your