“Be the Buffalo.” Advice to this year’s graduates from United Way’s President and CEO.

United Way President and CEO Pete Najera was invited to give this year’s commencement address at the WSU Tech graduation. Below is an excerpt of his advice for this year’s graduates.

As you begin your journey outside of Koch Arena, you may encounter adversity from time to time. There’s a famous story told by the first woman ever to be elected chief of the Cherokee Nation. Her name was Wilma Mankiller. She noted that the buffalo face adversity head on. She said, “Cows run away from the storm, while the buffalo charges toward it—and gets through it quicker. Whenever I’m confronted with a tough challenge, I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.”

Think about that! What a great image in your mind. A herd of buffalo steadfastly and slowly progressing in the face of a blizzard rather than running in the other direction.

Years ago, when I was in your time of life, I was told that because of my modest upbringing that I could never pass the entrance exams for higher education. Yet, I turned into the storm. I studied nights and weekends to make it happen. When they said I would never pass the 13 interviews required to be appointed for an assignment in the West Wing, I turned into the storm and prepared for two years to make it happen. In each case and in many others through my life, I faced adversity and a wall of skepticism where I didn’t just roll over, but like a buffalo, I turned into the storm to find the shortest way through it, achieving success on the other side.

Photo, left to right: WSU President Dr. Rick Muma, WSU Tech President Dr. Sheree Utash, United Way President & CEO Pete Najera, and WSU Tech student speaker Taylor Maine.

WSU Tech graduate speakers, including United Way President & CEO Pete Najera.

Having the courage to conquer adversity is a valuable life skill as opposed to one losing faith in their own ability and turning away. Like the cow who turns away and runs with the storm but never outruns or escapes its grasp. When confronted with a problem, do you try to avoid it, or do you put your head down and find a way through? Because you’re here today listening to these remarks, you have proven to be a buffalo when things get tough.

When life seems like a storm, be the buffalo. It can be a small step at first, something that just gets the momentum started. I don’t know how long your storm will last or how intense it is. All that I do know is that the buffalo gets through it quicker and in better shape than the cow.

Watch Pete’s full speech below, beginning at 38:50. 


Published On: May 22, 2023Tags:


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