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Olympic gold medal skier Jonny Moseley delivers Convocation speech at the University of California, Berkeley

17 May 2002

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 happiness.