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Commencement speaker encourages graduates to 'show up'

May 18, 2013
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Sona Mehring

EAU CLAIRE — Graduates at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire heard some easy-to-remember words of advice from a fellow Blugold during commencement ceremonies May 18: "Show up."

Sona Mehring, a 1983 UW-Eau Claire computer science graduate, delivered her alma mater's commencement address during the morning and afternoon ceremonies in Zorn Arena.

Mehring has been a follower of her own advice. She is the founder and CEO of CaringBridge, a nonprofit website that connects families and friends in times of health crises. With the founding of CaringBridge in 1997, Mehring launched one of the first social networks. More than 1 billion visits have been made to CaringBridge.org, with daily visitors from all 50 states and more than 225 countries.

Among those in Mehring's commencement audience was her son, Luke Mehring, who was graduating with a degree in computer science. Mehring's sons Jacob and Nicholas also are Blugolds: Nicholas is a 2011 information systems graduate and Jacob is a current student majoring in computer science.

In her address to the graduating class of 2013, Mehring told the students, "It's not how many times you fall down, but how many times you get back up. You have a responsibility to show up. Whatever you do in life, make sure you show up."

Mehring encouraged students to show up for one another, their professors, bosses, customers, parents, family and friends.

"Show up for the people you have created bonds with these years at Eau Claire," Mehring said. "Friendships you've created these years at Eau Claire are like none other in your life. You will not have these types of bonds created again. These friends knew you when you were at the beginning of your adulthood. No matter where you go, what you become or who else becomes part of your life, the friendships you've forged here are forever bonding and special."

Mehring said those who show up make the decisions, set the direction and make an impact in their own lives and in the world.

"You have worked tremendously hard to be sitting where you are today," Mehring said. "You are poised to go out into the world and poised to become a contributing member of society. In fact, we are giddy with anticipation of your inclusion in 'life after college.' But no matter what you know, who you know or how you know it, if you are not sharing and participating, you are not showing up. Be part of those who show up to set direction."

Mehring also cautioned students to never expect that anything in life will be handed to them and showing up to work hard is necessary.

"Show up by doing the best work you can do," Mehring said. "You know when you are doing your best work. You owe it to the people you are working and living with, but more importantly, you owe it to yourself. Show up by being courageous. Show up by being positive not negative. And show up by knowing the more you give the more you get."

In the closing remarks of her address, Mehring said the world is counting on the 2013 graduates to build a bright future.

"We gather here today at your commencement, an event where we pause during our ongoing journey of life to recognize a milestone," Mehring said. "It's good to recognize and celebrate milestones. But don't think for one minute that your path of learning and discovery is over. Your life is one of constant learning and discovery and you will have constant commencement moments.

"While this commencement is a celebration of results you've attained, to me and to the world, it is not a finish line, but a starting block. A starting block for you, the class of 2013, to explode out of and race into the world with gusto. Constantly be superheroes of your own life and never, ever forget to show up."

Mehring received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition and was named one of 2011's "Most Influential Women in Technology" by Fast Company and a "Leading Woman for Change" by MSN.com. She is a member of Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation, the National Health Council and the National Health Marketing Leadership Roundtable.

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