Dr. Gregory Baker Keynote Speaker  Keystone College 148th Commencement Ceremony
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Dr. Gregory Baker Keynote Speaker Keystone College 148th Commencement Ceremony

Thank you Dr. Brundage. I welcome Dr.
Fran Langan Dean of the School of Professional Studies to come forward to
introduce today’s commencement speaker. Today’s keynote speaker is a 1973
Keystone College alumnus, Dr. Gregory Baker. Dr. Baker has a successful
orthodontic office in Hanover, New Hampshire and is an associate clinical
professor of orthodontics at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Baker
earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University, his doctorate
of Dental Surgery from Temple School of Dentistry and his orthodontic
certification from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Dental Medicine.
Dr. Baker views continuing education as a top priority and uses cutting-edge
techniques in his practice. Knowledgeable, personable, highly skilled, attentive, and
sensitive are a few of the adjectives used by his patients to describe his
attributes. He is passionate about land preservation, enjoying the great outdoors
of New England and playing the saxophone. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Baker to
the podium to address the graduating class of 2019. I’m not feeling any pressure at all
right now. Hello class of 2019. Congratulations. Good morning Dr.
Brundage, faculty and staff, trustees, parents, family and friends. My name is
Greg Baker. A few months ago I got a call from Keystone’s
Mary Ellen Walsh inviting me today to be the commencement speaker. I said sure and
then I thought to myself did she do a background check on my years here at
Keystone? Clearly she didn’t. So I’m gonna give you my background check. I grew up
in a small town two hours north of here, and as Dr. Brundage said, she we went to
the same high school and I found that out a couple months ago.
I’m older than she is. Williamson Junior Senior High School. It’s a small world. I’m an Irish triplet. I have two brothers
that are 10 months older than me and for some reason my parents thought it was a
good idea that we skip kindergarten. That was the first mistake. Then they put us
in the same grade together and in fact the same classroom. Mistake number two. So
here I am: I missed kindergarten, I’m
developmentally, one year behind my brothers, and we’re in the same classroom.
And my sisters in the grade ahead of us and she’s an A student. So the Baker
experiment lasted 11 years we were
finally separated in the 12th grade. Unfortunately, it was a little too late
in the game. I’ve always felt like I belonged in the grade behind my
brother. It was tough to compete with him so I eventually devised my own
grading system. To me a D was equal to a C. A C was equal to a B and a B was
equal to an A, and I did not get many A’s. Unfortunately when I applied to college,
the colleges didn’t see that see it that way. My options were limited with a 73%
high school average and combined SAT scores of under 800 and you get almost
600 for signing your name. But I remember looking at dentistry in my guidance
counselor’s office and Mr. Howe was always quick to remind me that I was not
college material. He repeatedly suggested that I apply to the local trade school
and go back to work in my family’s hardware store. I was fortunate to get
one college interview. Keystone Junior College. I still remember that interview.
I remember the admissions officer saying to me, “you do not meet our academic “you do not need our academic
requirements, however, I know that your parents can pay the tuition. So we’re so
we’re going to accept you here at Keystone.” It’s a true story. And I’m
Thinking, does anybody have anything positive to say around here? So I
enrolled in Keystone in as a business major but I secretly wanted to be an
orthodontist. I also secretly wanted to meet Robert
Redford my film hero growing up. I had lunch with him in 1989. There … I’m gonna
pause because it’s very, some of these things are hard to say but anyway
there’ll be a little pause but I’ll get through it thank you. So at the end of
three business three semesters at Keystone combined with soccer
and socializing, I prove everybody right. My total cumulative was 1.53 with one
semester to go for graduation. Then I got a call from the dean’s office and I’m
thinking hmm. Truth be told I realized that with a total cumulative of 1.53 I was
most likely going to get the boot. So a few months earlier I applied to the
plumbing program at the Vo-Tech in Williamsport. I was thinking that maybe
Mr. Howe was right. That maybe I just wasn’t cut out for the academic world.
Unfortunately my application to the plumbing program at the Vo-Tech was
turned down. The visit to the Dean went as expected. He basically said you’re out
of here, and I’m thinking my parents are going to be pissed when they hear I
flunked out of Keystone Junior College. My response to the Dean was – I hate what
I’m studying. I hate what I’m studying. I want to go to dental school. His response was I’m pretty sure you’re
not getting into dental school with a 1.53. But somehow I convinced him to let me
stay the last semester. Maybe because my parents prepaid the tuition. I actually
might never know. I took biology, anatomy physiology and other science courses
that semester. I also was reminded that I needed 3.3 to pull my 1.53 over the 2.0
mark so I could graduate. My final semester I did meet a biology professor
who believed in me. Dr. Dupra. With his encouragement, I managed to cross the
finish line with a total two-year cumulative of 2.09
and graduated. Still not ideal for dental school, okay. That semester I learned to believe in
myself and where I belonged. My 3.9 took me on a long journey in my
20s. Penn State University in three years Temple University for years for dental
School. University of Pennsylvania for two years. While I was at Penn State
I ran into the valedictorian of my high school class in high school and he
laughed at me when I said to him that I was studying dentistry for dental school.
I’m thinking I think he’s still mad that I stole Cheryl from him in ninth grade. And knowing what I know this week,
sometimes the fastest horse doesn’t always win the Kentucky Derby. After I
graduated from Penn orthodontics, I went back to New Hampshire and started my
orthodontic practice. I was also invited to teach at Harvard orthodontics
which I thought was an honor and I’m thinking I am totally out of my league. I’ve been there 18 years it’s been the
most rewarding experience of my life. A few years ago I was asked to give the
orthodontic graduation speech at Harvard. I spent three months and many sleepless
nights trying to trying to come up with a commencement address that made me look
brilliant. And to top it off JK Rowling was speaking at the main commencement
that day, the author of Harry Potter. I didn’t feel any pressure. After much anxious
speech writing my friend Cindy said to me, she said, talk from your heart
instead of your brain. Somehow the writing became easier. So today I’m going
to share with you the life lessons I’ve extracted from that dental school
address. To get extracted. Okay so. Okay the first week of orthodontic
school we teach the basics of how teeth fit together. It’s called the six keys
to occlusion like when you bite it fits a certain way these fit a
certain way and there’s a certain look to them. Okay we call it the six keys to
occlusion. The students spend three years in training learning to bend
wire so that they can achieve these six keys to occlusion. They eventually learn
to hate this term. So I decided to put a spin on the six keys. So the six
keys to occlusion I renamed it as the six keys to less confusion. And here are
the six keys. Key number one is belonging. Key number two is honesty. Key number
three is humility. Key number four is being present. Key number five is
gratitude. And key number six is Forgiveness. Don’t worry about
remembering these six keys you’ll remember the stories and there is no
final exam. So we’ll talk about key number one. It’s belonging. I have to slow
it down a little bit. So humans, we have we all have a longing for belonging. My
two years at Keystone were spent figuring out where I belonged. I knew
from that day that I was accepted I didn’t want to be a business major, but
external voices are powerful they make us doubt ourselves. My heart was telling
me that I should go to dental school. And my brain and everybody else was
saying that I wasn’t smart enough. I urge you graduates to listen to your heart
and not your brain. And you will you will discover where you belong.
I love this quote, it’s called Path. “Look at every path closely and deliberately.
Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself does this
path have heart. If it does then it’s good. If it doesn’t then it’s of no use
to you. Make decisions from your heart.” A sense of belonging can have a positive
effect on mental and physical health. I go to a local coffee shop in the morning
and I meet with my friends. And for months I noticed a man in his 50s
probably. Who is kind of standing in the corner and he didn’t seem very friendly.
Or like he didn’t want to really talk to anybody. But one morning I walked up to
him and I said hello. And a conversation Started. And I learned that he was this
quiet man was recovering from a heart transplant and his body was good his
body was fighting it. I believe a simple hello made a difference that day. One
year later he’s at that morning coffee with us, enjoying his new
friends, and his improved health. Belonging is key number one. Key number two is honesty. Being honest
with ourselves and others is a really difficult key. Being honest with
ourselves and others. In 2004 I had a complicated spine procedure in Phoenix.
The minimally invasive surgery was attempted to decompress my spinal cord
from an injury. The three hour minimally invasive procedure became a 13-hour
maximally invasive procedure that open chests
yah-yah-yah okay so I lost 85% of my blood and I woke up on the respirator
and I was wondering what the hell Happened. The problem that I had with all
of this is that I had minimal information from the surgeon. He should
have been honest with me about the surgery and the complications. He should
have told me that I lost most of my blood in the surgery that I needed 13
units during the process. He should have told me that I would that I would be
yellow for 3 to 6 months. He should have told me that my lung was permanently
damaged. I returned about three years later I returned and I had a
conversation with him. I would have healed better if I knew I was up against
and I would have healed better if he would have been honest with me. The next
lesson I learned about honesty is that is being honest with myself. You know
when you have an inner conflict I’m sure that you haven’t experienced this but I
have. You have an inner conflict that’s going on and you don’t really deal with
it but it kind of bubbles up and you kind of push it back down. So I was doing
that in this situation. Okay let’s face it we’ve all done that. I was supposed to
get my blood tests at a year later for hepatitis and AIDS from the surgery day
and basically I was afraid to do that. So every time I thought about the test I
would say to myself you’re fine. You’re not yellow anymore and you don’t need to be tested and I
kept saying that I’m saying and saying and eventually the mental gymnastics
wore me out. I got my blood tested three years later and I was fine. What a
waste of emotional energy not being honest with myself. Honesty is key number
two. Key number three is humility. There are all kinds of lessons in humility.
Mount Washington is the highest mountain in New Hampshire. It’s six thousand two
hundred and eighty eight feet. It’s a quarter of the size of Everest. It has
the highest recorded wind speed on the planet. It’s 231 miles an hour the death
toll is over a hundred and thirty-eight people to date. The death toll on Everest
is a little over 200. So why is it that this mountain in New Hampshire has
claimed so many lives. Lack of humility. Here’s how you die hiking Mount
Washington on a hot August day. The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is 4.7
miles to the top of Mount Washington. The last the last mile the
trail is is above treeline. It’s rocky and it’s steep. It’s strangely littered
with crosses of people who have died. The many of these these deaths were
caused by too much ego and lack of Humility. You arrive at the base of the
mountain at 9 a.m. The temperature is 78 degrees with clear skies.
You’re young and you’re fit because you work out five times a week. You decide –
are you going to get out your day pack and decide to go light because it’s
summer. The sky is sunny and you make a choice not to bring rain gear but you do
throw a cotton hooded sweatshirt in your day pack along
with a bottle of water and two power bars. It’s going to be a quick hike. The
hike up to the tree line is a little challenging in spots but you but you
make it up. You’re a little sweaty from your workout. You leave the tree you
leave the trees and you see the last mile to the peak it’s rocky and steep
and a well-worn trail and every 50 foot is a cairn which is a large pile of
stones for visibility in the fog so that you don’t lose the trail. There’s a sense
of excitement when you see the top and you can’t wait to bag the peak. The only
problem is that you’ve gone through most of your water and both power bars. The
temperature now is 56 degrees and with 40 mile an hour winds. You’re a little
chilly so you put on your cotton sweatshirt and you pick up the pace.
Within 200 yards of tree line you see your first cross and you say to yourself
what a stupid way to lose your life hiking. you’re not you’re thinking that’s
what you were thinking but there’s a saying in mountaineering if you take a
risk and succeed it’s bold. If you take a risk and fail it was stupid.
You are now 31 minutes above tree line except now the clouds have moved in and
the wind is now much stronger. As you look across the landscape you can see
some clouds moving your way and light rain. Soon you are in the middle of it.
Your cotton Harvard sweatshirt is now wet and you can feel the mountain
stealing the cold from your body. Your forehead is cold
from the wind and the rain and your thought process seems a little slower.
You push on knowing that every 50 feet is a trail marker. Another 10 minutes you
decide to take a break out of the wind and so you take a break
behind a large boulder out of the wind. You are now shivering and you have goose
bumps, which raise the hair on end in an attempt to create an insulating layer
for your skin. Your body temperature has dropped three degrees. Now the
mountain owns you. You push on but because of reduced visibility and lack
of mental clarity, you roam off the trail. And you start going in a circular
pattern in the fog. Out of breath you take another
break. You actually begin to feel warm and it’s slightly euphoric now. You
decide to remove your sweatshirt because you’re warm. Paradoxical undressing is the
final stage. The rest is history.
And another cross is added to the mountain. Humility is key number three. The most impressive people I’ve ever met
understand this key. Key number four is being present. How do
you feel when someone is talking to you and their cell phone rings and they say
just a second. How does it make you feel. I know both sides of this scenario. I’m
guilty. We live in a distracted world. There’s a new term called digital
fasting. It’s an interesting term and it’s a it’s an interesting subject. That
you should check out. But the gift of being present is the greatest expression of kindness. The gift of being
present is the greatest expression of being kindness. Part of orthodontics
involves treating patients with head and neck pain.
Several years ago a patient came into my office with a classic jaw TMJ symptoms.
She couldn’t sleep from the chronic pain. And she said to me that she felt
Suicidal. She clearly wanted to talk to Me. The office was busy that morning so I
wanted to get started making her a night guard. The office was busy and I wasn’t
present for to her. She started to cry and I sat down. She didn’t need a night guard. She needed
to talk about what it was like to be in her apartment when the World Trade
Center, when the World Trade Center collapsed. She wanted to talk about how
she narrowly escaped with her life. She wanted to talk about the nightmares that
she had from that experience. She wanted to talk about how she was grinding
her teeth, and what she needed was for me to be present that day.
She left her New York City apartment with everything still on and moved to
Vermont. She was suffering from post-traumatic stress and she needed me
to be present that day. The gift of being present is the greatest expression of
kindness. These keys get harder. Okay sorry. Key
number five is gratitude. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. Gratitude
unlocks the fullness of life. I have a mom in my practice that was a
victim of a horrific domestic violence. Her boyfriend lost his temper and went
on a rage. He broke several of her bones and he threw lie in her face. It was
burned beyond recognition and she lost her eyesight. After 55 surgeries she
still looked disfigured. Several years ago she came to my office with her
daughter. It was a very uncomfortable waiting room scene. We quickly moved them
into a private room so as not to upset the other people in the reception area.
Ttruth be told I avoided going into that room but I eventually did. At one point in the conversation I said
I’m sorry for what you’d been through. And she responded she said “I have a lot
to be grateful for.” She was the fifth person to receive a face transplant at
Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Find one thing each day that you’re grateful for.
Write it down. Write it down on the mirror, your computer. It will transform
your life. Gratitude is key number five. The last
key to less confusion is forgiveness. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Conflict is inevitable in this life. It
can be internal conflict or it can be external conflict and an unresolved
conflict is like a carcinogen floating in your body and we’re capable of going
around for years with it with unresolved. With unresolved conflict the bridge
between conflict and resolution is Forgivenesss. Forgiveness of others and
ourselves. My father carried an unresolved conflict
with him for 38 years. It impacted his sleep, his mood, his joy, and his family. One Sunday afternoon
we were standing around the charcoal grill and I said to him what’s been
upsetting you all these years. And the floodgates opened up. World War II
stories came out, malaria, being afraid to Die, relational issues poured out, and so
did a lot of Tears. My father learned to forgive himself that day and he died two
months later in peace. We need to understand forgiveness. Forgiveness of
ourselves and others. The quality of your life will depend on your
ability to say I forgive you and I’m sorry. There are many times into practice of
orthodontics and in my life I’ve forgotten these keys. Belonging, honesty,
humility, presence, gratitude, and forgiveness. They’re difficult to
remember when you’re in the trenches. And if you can’t remember the six keys
remember kindness. In 1973 I was fortunate to have a biology professor
who encouraged me and was kind to me even though I had a 1.53 and he
probably never even knew he did that. Thank you doctor Dupra. My wish for the
2019 graduating class is that that you never underestimate your ability. That
you do not take no for an answer when it comes to your dreams. That you are
resilient. That you listen to your heart. And most importantly, that you practice
kindness. Kindness has the potential to turn a life around and the life we turn
around might even be our own. Congratulations class of 2019. I’m
grateful that you asked me to be part of your special day. We’re so appreciative that Dr. Baker
could be here with us today. I just wanted to try to add a little bit of
dental humor into this and saying you know, thanks Dr. Baker for making us
smile. And thanks for being a part of our commencement in the college’s 150th
year. I have a small token of appreciation for Dr. Baker I’d like to
present to him now. I’m gonna ask him to come up. This book yes the history of
Keystone was published by the Keystone College Press and edited by Victoria
Eremo a 2018 alum of Keystone college and this book shows who we are as a
place: Big enough to challenge, small enough to care. Dr. Baker’s words meant
so much to us. at this time of our celebration, and I
want to thank you. In addition, I have a short message from Dr. Baker’s sister
who couldn’t be here today. And here’s the message that when she wanted me to
share. She states: “GB” I hope I don’t start crying now. “You are
a kind and generous man and I’m so proud of your accomplishments. Many lives have
been enriched because you didn’t take no for an answer
no you will always be my hero. Love you dude.

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