“Life is not fair, life is not easy. You’ve probably heard that from a number of different sources. Advertisements always try to tell you that life is bright and easy — it’s vacations, soft drinks and fried food. But life is hard. And wherever you’re at in life, you have unexpected challenges. Perhaps I’ve seen more of them because I’ve chosen to seek a life of adventure and risk in the high mountains. There’s a certain understanding that one gets through hardship. The basis of that is compassion and empathy for other people. And if you’ve been there and you’ve been through hardship, then you realize what those challenges are.
When you’re a mountain climber, you’re out there suffering away, living off of couscous and a cup of tea, it’s kind of a little self-imposed hardship. But when you come back, we’re fortunate. I’m not for want of food or shelter or transportation. When you experience a little bit of hardship and you realize what hardship entails, it’s motivation for us to give back and to think about the bigger picture. The people who have been humbled and been in other people’s shoes are people who are empathetic. They’re not going to think about the world ending 4 inches past their fingertips. Their world will be, “How are my actions impacting other people?”
We are dependent upon other humans, we are not an island unto ourselves. We are collectively one of 7.4 billion humans on this planet.
Life is short. We’ve got this one chance to make positive changes on our planet.”
— Conrad Anker, world renowned mountain climber, author, filmmaker, philanthropist and University of Utah alumni class of 1988. He will deliver the 2017 commencement address