We need to remember one critical component in the fight against opioid addiction. That being: if you do not start...

Be scared of not trying, you might succeed

Tom Campbell.jpg

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Can you remember what the commencement speaker said at your graduation? We are in commencement season and platitudes aplenty are being spoken to graduates across our state. Most will be forgotten as soon as tassels are turned, but this year’s graduates of the UNC School of the Arts heard an address worth remembering.

Mary Mitchell Campbell, a Wilson native and School of the Arts high school graduate, was the speaker. Campbell is an acclaimed Broadway music director with a long list of credits. She also directs solo artists, like Kristen Chenoweth, and sometimes directs symphony orchestras.

But there’s another side. Campbell frequently contributes time to charitable events and is the founder of ASTEP, an international charitable organization that brings artists and young people together for education, the arts and financial help. Highly motivated, laser focused and always moving, Mary Mitchell likes to remain behind the scenes, but people in the theater and music world know and respect this accomplished woman. And did I mention she is my niece? Our family is proud of her.

Before her address, the School of the Arts presented Mary Mitchell an honorary doctor of fine arts degree and Dr. Campbell (as she wants us to address her henceforth) remembered that going to the School of the Arts was terrifying at first, but she quickly found herself with “my people.”

While in college Mary Mitchell determined to pursue a career in theater music, but nobody in her life thought it was a good idea. In fact, they thought it was a terrible idea. She says, “One of my favorite professors sat me down — he was very much a father figure for me, and we were very close. He knew I had no money, and that there wasn’t going to be someone to fall back on financially, and he very simply and clearly told me he was worried about me.

“I had some amazing job opportunities in front of me, and it didn’t make sense to chase a dream where the success rate is so low. He said, and I will never forget this moment — ‘I know you are talented, but I have watched so many talented people try to do this, and it always ends badly. I think you will fail, and you will have passed up these other sure things and regret it. I think you need to reconsider this decision.’”

That was a turning point. In what Campbell terms a rare glimpse of clarity, “Call it God, call it your inner voice, whatever. I said to him — I know you care, and you want to look out for me, and I believe you 100 percent. I think you are right that I will probably fail. But the thing I’m realizing in this moment is that I’m not scared of failing. I am scared of not trying.”

With graduation speakers, “You get a before picture, and an after picture, and you literally skip the middle part and it all looks like it just went really well. I’m here to tell you ... that middle part ... that part was good sometimes, but a lot of the time it just sucked. Success is not a straight line. Don’t get fooled into thinking it is. “

The life lesson for graduates and all of us is that you can’t just sit on the sidelines, afraid to fail. You can never succeed if you don’t try. Don’t be scared to try.

Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and creator and host of NC SPIN at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday on UNC-TV. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

May 22, 2019

Presidential contenders are in a battle to out give one another. Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes a whopping $50,000 per student college loan forgiveness. Sen. Bernie Sanders proposes free health care for all Americans plus illegal aliens. Most Democratic presidential candidates promise free stuff…

Walter Williams

May 21, 2019

Not that long ago, North Carolina Democrats had the "big tent" party — an eclectic group that shared common values but disagreed on many individual issues.

Moderate — sometimes even conservative — rural Democrats in the legislature worked alongside big city liberals. The moderates…

Colin Campbell

May 21, 2019

Later this week, North Carolina will renew its partnership with a little-known country that's been bringing out the best in our state's people for more than two decades.

North Carolina's National Guard has been helping the country's defense forces throughout this time. Librarians from Wilmington…

David Jarmul

May 20, 2019

North Carolina appropriates less taxpayer money to state colleges and universities in real terms than it did before the onset of the Great Recession. Tuition has risen markedly and now accounts for a larger share of total revenue. But our state remains one of the most generous in the country when…

john hood.jpg

May 20, 2019

How many people have the ability to manipulate the stock market? One, and this isn’t a trick question. We’re watching how President Trump’s statements about slapping tariffs on China one day, or the great headway he’s making on a China trade deal the next day can tank the…


May 19, 2019

The Washington Post

The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has said she does not think anyone would argue that the perpetrator of the Christchurch massacre should have been able to livestream mass murder. Maybe that question elicits something close to unanimity — but in trying to…

May 19, 2019

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, adding his voice to calls to "break up" the social media giant, calls it a "powerful monopoly, eclipsing all of its rivals and erasing competition." In recent years, we've seen similar claims, and heard demands for similar remedies, aimed at Google, Amazon, and…


May 19, 2019

With a competent president in the White House, the escalating confrontation with Iran would not rise to the level of crisis. With President Trump calling the shots, we should be afraid. Very afraid.

A rational president, of course, would not have abandoned the landmark deal that halted Iran's…

Eugene Robinson

May 18, 2019

I’ve been watching the emerging election for North Carolina’s Senate seat and wonder if we are seeing symptoms of a larger trend. Our traditional tribalism — Republicans and Democrats — has morphed into contentious sub-tribes within each party. Instead of a sure re-…

Tom Campbell.jpg

May 17, 2019

Tom McCuin served two tours as an Army public affairs officer in Afghanistan and worked closely with local nationals hired by American forces.

"They were not only our language interpreters, they were our cultural interpreters," McCuin wrote on clearancejobs.com, a site that lists openings for…

Steve and Cokie Roberts
251 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 26
        Next Page»   Last Page»