Ask 'What is Next?'

Written by: 
Phil McGraw (’76 M.A., ’79 Ph.D.)

Editor's note: The following is excerpted from McGraw's May 2011 commencement speech at UNT. It's edited slightly for print.

As a former student and graduate, it truly is an honor to be addressing you. I can't tell you what it's like to go through all of this and then one day get to come back and stand here. And there have been some big changes since I was where you are. When I was here, there were 17,000 students and now there are 36,000. It's more than doubled. There are new buildings, new programs. I looked all over the place for the key card punch center, I just couldn't find it. We used rolodex. We had 8-track tapes. We had rotary dial phones. We didn't have cell phones, the Internet, laptops, desktops, but we still got the job done.

And even before my day, North Texas was known as "North Texas Normal College." Well, I'm glad they changed that name, because I've been called a lot of things since I left here, and "normal" ain't one of them. It's amazing to see the progress here, and these folks are to be commended. Be proud to hold an advanced degree from the University of North Texas. I am.

I did most of my work over in Terrill Hall, and the first day I was up on campus there was a construction fence over there, and a bunch of psych students had gone with really big paint brushes and wrote on that fence, "Help! The paranoids are after me!" A little psych humor, but I knew I was in the right place. They had a sense of humor here.

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Learn Dr. Phil's truths for success in the full speech transcript

Now, something that may surprise you — maybe it won't, maybe it will — is how great a school the University of North Texas is. I believe it is one of the best-kept secrets in America. And you will see that. You will see it when you get out there. I went into a competitive world with a master's and a Ph.D. from here and I tell you that there was never a time I was in a room when I felt like I did not have a superior education. I didn't care where they came from or who they were. Be proud of what you have achieved here. This is a fine university and you should be proud of completing this curriculum.

My major professor here at North Texas was Frank Lawlis. I still work with him every day of my life. He's on the staff of the Dr. Phil show. I still use resources from this school. You've got to have people around you who want you to succeed. I've done 1,500 shows. I've had the privilege of dealing with silent epidemics in America — domestic violence, bullying, mental illness — trying to open the dialogue about these things in American society. I've had the privilege of interviewing presidents, royalty, testifying before Congress. Not one bit of that was achieved alone.

The question for you is, "What is next?" Someone here in this audience will change this world. Why not you? Hear me when I say this: The difference between dreams and goals is a timeline. "Someday" is not a day of the week.

Phil McGraw ('76 M.A., '79 Ph.D.) has fostered a national dialogue about mental health and mental illness as host of his syndicated television show Dr. Phil. He also is the author of six No. 1 New York Times bestsellers and is often called upon to act as "America's psychologist," giving his expert opinion on current events for news outlets such as The Today Show, Good Morning America and Anderson Cooper 360.