Dowd Bennett Partner Gabriel Gore Gives Commencement Speech at Missouri State University

Missouri State alum tells grads: Demise of American dream ‘greatly exaggerated’

Written by Steve Pokin,

Gabriel Gore, a St. Louis attorney and a former federal prosecutor, told 481 graduates Friday that when he graduated from Missouri State University 21 years ago neither he nor his classmates foresaw how much the world would change and what opportunities lie ahead.

“None of us had ever sent an email or text message,” said Gore, 43. “We had never been to Starbucks. All of us had Blockbuster movie rental cards.”

In other words, get ready for change and the opportunity that rides its wake, Gore advised.

“The rumors of the demise of the American dream have been greatly exaggerated,” he said.

“Twenty years from now, will you have been part of building the next great American company, like Google, Netflix or Starbucks?”

This was the first commencement speech Gore has given. He said he was honored by the invitation and believes he was asked, at least in part, because he volunteered in 2010 to serve on a MSU presidential search committee.

Gore said Thursday the objective of his speech would be to inspire — in less than 15 minutes. He wrapped up his message in 13 minutes and 29 seconds. Summer commencement was held in the John Q. Hammons Arena.

In preparation, he said, he had studied the commencement speeches of others.

“If you’re a lawyer and you’re drafting briefs you’re going to decide, ‘Let me take a look at other briefs that people have drafted on this issue,’” he said.

Gore graduated from the University of Chicago Law School; clerked for a federal judge; and was hired by U.S. Attorney Ed Dowd in St. Louis. In 1999 Gore was an assistant special counsel in a federal investigation of the 1993 shootout at the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, where four federal agents and six members of the religious group died.

Dowd went into private practice and hired Gore, who successfully defended Hilary Clinton in a defamation lawsuit brought by Gennifer Flowers, who allegedly had a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton while he was Arkansas governor.

Gore grew up in St. Louis and remembers a few people who seemed puzzled by his choice of what was then Southwest Missouri State.

“It does not strike people as quite a natural fit for African Americans,” said Gore, who is black.

But it was a great fit, he said, in large part because of the camaraderie of being on the track and cross country teams. Gore ran four years at MSU, specializing in the 1500 meters.

Gore didn’t go to MSU because a recruiter visited his high school. No one in his family had attended MSU. Here’s what happened.

When he was a junior in high school his older brother was on a University of Pittsburgh basketball team that played at MSU in the National Invitational Tournament. Gore came to Springfield to watch the game. The Bears won.

“It was in ‘Spoon’s Temple of Doom,’” Gore recalled, referring to former Bears coach Charlie Spoonhour, who died earlier this year.

Gore liked the campus and he liked what he heard about the track and cross country programs and coach Richard Clark. He fondly recalled Clark in Friday’s speech.

“Coach Clark said that on the track and in life it is how you deal with adversity that will define you,” Gore said.

Gore said his MSU experience was positive also because of the mentoring he received from Alice Fleetwood Bartee, an MSU political science professor for 35 years. She died in 2010.

“She became my favorite professor and my pre-law adviser,” he said.

The mentoring he received related to Point No. 1 in his speech: “Choose great role models. Find strong mentors. Seek out their advice and guidance and be a willing student.”

Point No. 2: “Be a great teammate. You all will be required to work as part of a team to achieve the goals of whichever enterprise you are a part of.”

Point No. 3: “Be a risk taker. Be the one who takes on the challenging assignment that no one else wants to do.”

And Point No. 4: “Find the time to give back. … Twenty years from now, what will be your answer to that enduring question: What have I done in service of others?”

Copyright 2012

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