Make It New Grads

MacArthur genius reveals 4 nuggets of wisdom about success and a life well-lived

Daryl Baldwin
Photo courtesy MacArthur Foundation and by John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

In honor of graduation season, CNBC Make It is rolling out the speeches and pieces of advice that America's leaders are most excited to share with the Class of 2017. Follow along using the hashtag #MakeItNewGrads.

MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner Daryl Baldwin is a descendant of the Miami (Myaamia) Native American nation. But growing up in northwest Ohio, there wasn't a community of Myaamia people nearby for Baldwin to connect with. Though Myaamia tradition had left its mark in regional names, like Ohio's Miami University, the tribe was a lost part of history.

"My friends hunted for artifacts and arrowheads in the nearby river banks and farm fields while I learned about the many places my relatives lived, traveled and raised our families," says Baldwin, who delivered the commencement speech to Miami University this week.

"My friends were proud of our school mascot, the Anthony Wayne Fighting Generals, while I had to deal with how that same Anthony Wayne and his fighting generals drove our ancestors from our beloved homeland."

Baldwin, now in his 50s, made preserving his tribe's culture and language his life's work. In 2016 he won the MacArthur Foundation genius grant for his efforts.

He delivered the 2017 commencement address to Miami of Ohio and shared these four lessons on the process of achieving success and living a good life.

1. "Remember the path towards achievement is never traveled alone"

In the commencement address, Baldwin reminds graduates to thank their families, teachers and mentors for their support on the journey of education. Success, he says, depends on a village.

"You were able to accomplish this because of the support of your community," says Baldwin, acknowledging six graduating Myaamia Tribe graduates in the audience.

Similarly, Baldwin says his MacArthur Foundation genius award and grant was the result of the work of colleagues, his tribe and the Miami University. The award "is not just my recognition alone but the recognition of a shared vision by many."

2. Struggle is often a catalyst to tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges

The Myaamia tribe suffered persecution and was scattered. "[M]emory and accumulated life experiences can leave scars, but it can also serve as a motivating spark to seek life in a different form," says Baldwin.

"I and others dreamed of a future that looked and felt different from what we were experiencing. This is what caused me to seek a career in language and cultural revitalization at a time when no such jobs existed."

3. A life well lived is crowned with humility and wisdom

"The Myaamia culture teaches us that humility and wisdom are the outcome of a life well lived," says Baldwin.

The way to find these things are curiosity and mindfulness, he says.

"Seeking knowledge, being conscious and aware and striving to understand those things that are elusive create a healthy mind."

4. Diversity brings strength to a community

"Establishing kinship bonds with our neighbors is how we strengthened our relationships, maintained respectful interactions and maintained peace," says Baldwin of the Myaamia Tribe and its values. "[S]ociety thrives when we embrace diversity and respect differences."

Look for more exclusive pieces of advice from icons like Melinda Gates, Dave Ramsey and others over the next few weeks. Follow along using the hashtag #MakeItNewGrads.

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