Campus Currents

The Hardest Lesson
Actor and playwright Mike O'Malley '88 delivered commencement wisdom

Mike O'Malley '95

The 20th of May dawned cool and dry after a week of pounding rain that left Cowell Stadium so swollen with water that the 2006 graduation ceremony had to be moved for the first time across the street to Memorial Field's artificial turf in front of the Whittemore Center. At 9:45 a.m., more than 2,000 graduates queued in the Dairy Bar parking lot to begin UNH's 136th commencement procession.

Actor Mike O'Malley '88, the keynote speaker, told students that while other universities around the country were being addressed by Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners, "UNH brings you the guy from 'Guts.'" The reference was to a Nickelodeon game show he once hosted.

After he agreed to be the commencement speaker, O'Malley said he called then-president Ann Weaver Hart to ask why he had been chosen. Hart's reply, O'Malley said, was that "we live in a time when hope seems to be in short supply. Our committee concluded that if a guy with a 2.89 GPA can make his dreams come true, anybody can."

O'Malley's humor was tempered by serious moments when he offered advice and even wisdom. He urged graduates to find a way to minimize cruelty of any kind, assuring them they could "make a contribution to the goodness of the world rather than subtract from it." His uncomplicated advice on love: In matters of the heart, one must "try, try, try to be kind."

Commencement 2006

O'Malley stressed the value of friends, saying, "Drive across the country and go into debt to go to their weddings; fly across the country and be with them when their parents pass away." His fundamental message was worth the repetition he gave it: "Be a good person. You know what that means ... Be a good person, be a good person, be a good person. It is so, so, so, so hard to do all the time."

In the end, after recounting the early struggles of his career, O'Malley told of filming a movie scene with the actress Heather Locklear. Remember this story, he said, if you ever find yourself questioning your abilities. "If a former kids' game show host who grew up in Nashua, got cut from the junior high baseball team and starred in one of the quickest cancelled shows in sitcom history could find himself on a quiet night in Canada kissing Heather Locklear, you too can make your dreams come true."

O'Malley's commencement address can be found online at

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