Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


May 28, 2018


Summer is here, school is out, and a new class of college graduates is officially entering the workforce. As they receive their diplomas and plan their next steps, they are sure to be met with an abundance of advice on how to maximize their impact on the world. Let me add a little insight of my own into the mix.

Throughout my career, I’ve gotten to know successful people in a range of fields—from public service to medicine to education to the arts—all of whom have made a positive difference in the world. I’ve noted the greatest impact, however, from a field that doesn’t always get its due credit as a driver of progress in our society: business.

Business has always been a leading force for good in America. Its very purpose is to solve problems, meet needs, and devise new services to make life better. Those who enter careers in business are entering into a competition to provide value for consumers and society.

Through the American free enterprise system, businesses have created lifesaving drugs, efficient new ways of doing things, and groundbreaking inventions from the automobile to the computer. Just as important, they have enabled people to achieve security for their families, create meaningful jobs for their neighbors, and improve the quality of life in their communities.

Businesses also fuel the economic growth that funds our government, including our public schools, social safety nets, strong national defense, and support for scientific research. Further, many businesses go above and beyond to contribute to society. Next time a natural disaster strikes, pay close attention to how many companies rush to donate money, food, supplies, services, and shelter.

I’d like all graduates entering the workforce to know that a career in business can be a profound personal calling, especially when coupled with strong values. It’s a calling to put your unique gifts into the service of society and, in doing so, to create value not just for yourself but for your family, community, and country.

For any graduates looking to make a difference, I encourage you to start by identifying a need or a problem that you want to address and then apply your knowledge and skills to addressing it through free enterprise. Whether you wish to do so at an existing company or by starting your own, business offers endless opportunities to find dignity and purpose while making the world a better place.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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