Stinner: Practice Gratitude, Embrace Change


By Tena Cook CSC Marketing Coordinator

Chadron State College recognized 354 candidates for graduation at the Spring Commencement Ceremony Saturday in the Chicoine Center.

The event honored 274 undergraduates and 80 graduates. The opening moment of reflection was given by Austin Alexander of Newell, South Dakota, who also received her commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. The closing moment of reflection was provided by Kinsey Smith of Windsor, Colorado.

Former Nebraska State Senator John Stinner Sr. was the commencement speaker. He was elected to the Nebraska Legislature, representing District 48, in 2014 and re-elected 2018, before his term expired in 2022.

A native of Pennsylvania, Stinner came to Nebraska on a full athletic scholarship and was a member of the University of Nebraska national championship football team in 1970-71. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1973 and master’s in economics from UNL in 1976.

Stinner encouraged the graduates to live a life full of gratitude.

“M.K. Mueller recommends that every morning for 30 days when you pop out of bed, the first thing you will do is write down three things you are grateful for. Research indicates people who maintain a gratitude journal are more happy, productive, and energized,” Stinner said. “Future teachers, wouldn’t it be interesting to start your students’ practicing gratitude in grade school? Having an entire generation of happy, energized, productive people living a life of gratitude would be something to see.”

He included advice for other future leaders, as well.

“One Gallup poll in 2003 indicated that the number one reason people leave their jobs was that they don’t feel appreciated. If you are a boss or leader, look for opportunities to praise or compliment good work. If a worker feels appreciated, they feel much more invested in your organization,” Stinner said.

Stinner reviewed the life lessons he learned from his parents, the anchors, and transformers in his life.

“We weren’t rich, as my dad was a mechanic and my mom stayed home when I was a child. They were a part of the Greatest Generation and neither graduated from high school. They had seven children and were adamant that all of us would go to college and we did. You see, they felt a college degree was a pathway to a better life. Statistics today bear that out,” Stinner said.

He addressed artificial intelligence and the unknown transformations it will bring.

“There will be certain risks, challenges and opportunities. We will be creating jobs that we don’t even have names for yet. For me, embracing change is synonymous with being a life-long learner. Continuous study in your profession will build proficiency, which will build confidence, and with confidence, you are more apt to take on prudent risks throughout your life’s journey which can lead you to new and exciting paths,” Stinner said.

As Stinner concluded his business career, he decided to give back to his community by running for the State Legislature. Once he was elected, he said it was a learning curve to move from managing a staff to learning consensus-building with 48 other legislators.

“I needed to forge relationships helpful in getting support and passing future legislation. Even though you spend endless hours in meetings and debate, I found that the most important skill was empathetic listening to other points of view. In today’s polarized world, we need people who will listen, and I can assure you that compromise is not a bad word. It’s actually what has made our country great. It’s how true democracy works,” Stinner said.