STARKVILLE — “Please dream big,” international best-selling and award-winning author James Patterson urged the more than 1,300 graduates during Friday’s fall commencement ceremonies at Mississippi State University.
“Make sure you have a dream when you leave Mississippi State and have a backup dream,” Patterson said. “When I was kid, right through high school and into college, my dream was to play basketball in the NBA. I could dunk. I was pretty good. It didn’t happen, but I had a backup dream.”
“I loved to write stories, and I went at the craft of storytelling with passion and perseverance and kind of obsessive stubbornness. My first novel was published when I was 26,” he added. His fictional novels have now sold more than 300 million copies.
Currently holding the Guinness World Record for the most No. 1 New York Times best-sellers of any author and the first to achieve 10 million e-book sales, the New York native also is the first to have No. 1 new titles listed simultaneously on the Times’ children’s and adult best-seller lists.
“You have to work real hard at your dream and even at your backup dream,” Patterson said. “I’ve always felt compelled to do the best that I possibly can and tell the best stories I’m capable of, especially my stories for kids.”
A summa cum laude English graduate of Manhattan College and Vanderbilt University, he also has produced several popular book series for young adults.
In addition to “dreamers,” Patterson also encouraged the December graduates to be “doers.”
“There is so much to do right now, and please try not to be cynical about it and skeptical about it.
“You can do stuff; you really can,” he emphasized.
Patterson and wife Susan Solie Patterson, who currently reside in Florida, long have been major supporters of literacy education initiatives. Earlier this year at MSU, the couple established the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship Endowment, with inaugural awards to eight freshman elementary education majors.
Following his address, Patterson said he and Susan plan to donate more scholarships for MSU students next year. MSU President Mark E. Keenum also declared Patterson an honorary Bulldog in recognition of his contributions, integrity and professional achievements that have set an example of excellence.