Welcome Wilson Sr., Speaks at the UH Bauer Real Estate Program Graduation Ceremony
I can’t tell you how proud and privilege I am to speak in the Graduating Class of the 2014 Class of the Bauer Real Estate School, some of you have graduated with honors Cum Laude, some of you even have Magna Cum Laude, John and I graduated thank you Laude (laughs). And it’s so nice to have your ceremony in this great Hilton Hotel, I knew Conrad Hilton, and 50 years ago we named the Hotel College after Conrad Hilton as well as this hotel, we named it after Conrad Hilton because he was a great writer, a famous writer, he wrote a big check (laughs) I’m gonna touch on 2 things, 1 is I’m gonna talk about the early days in business in Houston and then I’m going to give you a list of suggestions on how to live your life, if you haven’t heard it before but I call it Welcome’s Rules of Order.
Okay, in the 1940’s I lived in Brownsville, Texas and I had just graduated from Brownsville Junior College, my father insisted that we go to the University of Houston, my brother and me, my brother was 2 years older than I am, his name was Jack he had just returned from World War II, I missed World War II by 30 days, I had my orders to report to the draft and then Truman dropped 2 atom bombs on Japan, and the war ended in a week. So, in 1946 we are on our way to the University of Houston, in Houston, Texas. Now nobody in Brownsville had ever heard of the University of Houston, my father wanted us to come to Houston because of the City of Houston. He said I could be the captain of the business world one day and he was not wrong, the city had a 1/2 a million people in the Metropolitan area, now they have 6 1/2 million people in Metropolitan Houston, Houston is a great place to live, I’ll never forget when my father dropped us off to go the University of Houston and said, in September of 46, it was in front of Army Surplus house Trailer number 67, it was at Trailer Village which is what the hell is called the Belcher Parking lot and there were about 200 house trailers, the bathroom was a block and half away. So when my father dropped us off he said, boys I have paid your first semester’s tuition, I have paid your first month rent on this house trailer $10, and he said here is $50.00 each and boys whenever you need anything, I want you to call me up on the telephone, whatever you need just call me up and I will explain how you can get by without it. (laughs) And Keith that was the last time we heard from him financially for the rest of our lives and nor did we did expect it, we did just fine.
I went to work selling advertising for the Daily Cougar, in those days it was a weekly and we did singing acts in night clubs, $10 bucks a night, we did singing commercials on TV in 1948 when we had 1 TV station and nobody had any TV sets, it was a different world. But my father was right Brandon because within a few years of my graduation I personally knew George R. Brown, I knew Oscar Hoker, I knew Gus Worth, I knew Judge Jim Helkins, Jessie Jones I knew all the movers and shakers in Houston. And if you wanna know how I come out after lunch and I’ll be happy to tell you. But here is the thing now that our City Civic Centre is the George Brown Convention Centre in Hoken Boulevard is named after these people, R. Bob Smith was one of them, he would be considered a billionaire today, Bob Smith was all that he was the largest land owner in Harris County, the largest land owner, he owned land that is today called both sides of the west loop. He owned land that today is called both sides of the west belt. I’ll never forget in 1953 when he bought the last track of the west belt land, it was 500 acres that was on Westheimer that connected to 5000 acres that he already owned going to the south.
And I worked for him so we drove out to look at the land, we rented this Cadillac which was a big deal at the time, so as we drove across, along the frontage there of Westheimer it was way, way out in the country, I said boss here I am getting ready to go in the real estate business and all the good deals are gone. And he pulled over the side and he said, you silly peckerwood (laughs), if you want to know what a peckerwood is, talk to me after lunch (laughs). He said you silly peckerwood don’t you realize that the real estate boom in Houston, Texas has only begun, he said banks will lend money on real estate today, 3 years ago they wouldn’t do that, the bank wouldn’t dare make a loan on real estate, too risky. But today you can borrow money on real estate, he said the boom in Houston has only begun, of course you know he was right.
And he owned the land where the Astrodome is, he owned 7000 acres of North-eastern, he had great faith in the land and I remember what he told me about real estate, he said don’t spend money on expensive surveys on whether you should buy, it’s simple buy on Westheimer, I don’t care how far you have to go out, buy on Westheimer you can’t go wrong and he was right.
Back to the University of Houston and I are still the same age, we are both 86 years old and the University of Houston however has never been more vigorous, Jim it’s never been more on the go or more cutting edge than it is today, I on the other hand am moving more slowly (laughs). As I often said, Chuck if you hear me talking about happy hour I’m talking about a nap (laughs). I was always told to respect my elders and now I don’t have any (laughs). One great advantage however, no peer pressure (laughs). It’s been 65 years since I graduated from the University of Houston and I have been deeply involved for a long time, I was Chairman of the Board or Regents with John Nation and one of my proudest moments Brandon, on the Board of Regents was brow beating John Ross to become a Director of the Graduate Real Estate program, my proudest moment (applause). One thing that has not been mentioned that is that John is finish almost 3 years now working for $1 a year 16 hours a day for $1 a year, thank you John.
I’m glad to now go to some advice for graduates. First of all, don’t ever act like a big shot, the world loves humility, big shots make enemies, you don’t need them. Number 2, Smooze people that can help you, I was a champion smoozer in my day (laughs), When the crown hadn’t been invented, be willing to approach important people and make your pitch, your success is a team effort and you need to get important people on your team. Next, never burn a bridge, the person who hates you today is likely to be a good friend and supporter 5 years from now, never over react, never burn a bridge, time heals almost everything, give time time. By the way time is a great healer but it’s a lousy beautician(laughs). Number 4 never argue with a stranger, road rage is stupid, save your arguments for people you love, always yield, always yield. One of the hardest things in the world is when you are surrounded by friends and peers and somebody challenges you and wants to fight and wants to do whatever, it takes great courage to walk away but that’s what you gotta do. Number 5 don’t let success go to your head. In a good economy in the real estate business, everything works, everything works, and you begin to feel like it’s all because of you. I have seen it many, many times including in myself, despite what you think, you are not invincible there are things over which you have absolutely no control, possible the economy, no control. Don’t ever assume that “things will work out” sometimes they don’t. In terms of cash, stay as liquid as you possible can, when you are liquid and have cash, you are wise, you are handsome, and you sing well too. (laughs).
Number 6, don’t ever go against you gut instincts unless you agree with it, never follow the advice of the experts, lawyers, engineers, architects they are very qualified at what they do but if they want you to do something that’s against your gut instincts, don’t do it. Number 7, remember people’s names, simply take the trouble to do so, anybody can remember a face, a person’s name is the sweetest sound in the world to him, go through the trouble to remember people’s names. Let me get back to the University of Houston for a minute, now I’m not even a member of the Board of Regents, the Governor replaced me on the Board of Regents, I have gone from who’s who to who’s he, the Governor replaced me with Welcome Jnr and you might figure that’s great in a lot of ways and I guess it is in several way but the point is Welcome Jnr is my worst critic, he can be very negative, in fact his blood type is B negative (laughs). I’m so old John, they cancelled my blood type. Just the other day I asked Welcome Jnr did you hear my last speech and he paused and he said, I hope so (laughs). Then the worst was Rachel Welder who is a Regent from Victoria Texas asked him, exactly how old is Welcome Snr so Welcome paused and then he said, let me put it this way when Welcome Snr was a teenage the dead sea was only sick (laughs).
Alright, number 8, dress like you are important, if you want people to think you are important, you must dress as though you are. When I was a student at the University of Houston I wore a neck tie and long sleeved shirts, why because the students thought I was somebody, they thought I was an employee, I could go to the head of the line in the cafeteria, I could go behind the counter in the bookstore, people thought I was important because I dressed like I was important. Number 10 don’t dwell on a set-back, when you foul up there is no time to sit around and suck your thumb, what you gotta do is think about the failure, develop your plan for a solution and then forget about it, don’t dwell on a set-back. Number 11 always show enthusiasm, people love to do business with people who are positive, to succeed you must have pride and passion in what you do. And while you are at it, use the good silverware every day, burn the candles, live for today in terms of your lifestyle and so forth just don’t spend too much money.
Next, be willing to do things that other people are unwilling to do, leadership is achieved by helping people, it’s not by telling people what to do, when you help people you automatically become the leader. Next, look people in the eye, that’s what successful people do and lastly the most important part of your happiness comes from your self-image, it matters not what your terrible circumstance might be, if your self-image is good you can be happy. There was a book called a day in the life of Ivan Denisovich written by Solzhenitsyn or something like that years ago, and it was the story of a prisoner in Siberia 25.0 who had a good day and was happy because that particular day he got a, and he felt like he did a good job, happiness depends on your own self attitude, so how do you keep that high, you do it Jim by always doing the right thing.
I remember LBJ once told me, he said Welcome my problem as President is not doing the right thing, it is knowing the right thing to do, but you are not President, 99 times out of 100 you know what is right, do it. Set an example, when you let somebody ahead of you on the freeway into your lane, you are being a big person, you will feel better about yourself when you do it, so let the guy come in, always be the big person and keep your self-image high. Well that’s the end of my list and I’m gonna conclude now but how many people here have ever heard of Dr. Red Duke, I bumped into Red the other day at the River Club Red Duke is an old man, he’s not as old as I but he is almost as old as I, and he said Welcome you know you are getting old when you tell your best friend that you are having an affair and you also know who is catering it. (laughs)