Full Text: Harrison Butker Talks Marriage and Faith at Georgia Tech’s Graduation 2023

Although this year’s speech made a bigger social-media splash, Butker shared much of the same advice last year to students at his alma mater.

Harrison Butker speaks to students at Georgia Tech during the 2023 commencement ceremony.
Harrison Butker speaks to students at Georgia Tech during the 2023 commencement ceremony. (photo: Screenshot / Georgia Tech/YouTube)

Editor’s Note: Harrison Butker of the Kansas City Chiefs commencement speech for graduates at Benedictine College has garnered tremendous attention due to his statements on family, vocation and traditional values. Butker also spoke on similar topics to the graduating class of Georgia Tech in 2023. Please find his full speech published below. 

Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2023: Congratulations on making it to this pivotal point in your life. It was only six short years ago that I sat where you are now, having just been drafted into the NFL the weekend prior. Sitting there that day, I could not have imagined where my life would take me, let alone that I would be standing here before you today. I’d like to thank President [Angel] Cabrera for granting me this honor of speaking alongside Gov. [Sonny] Perdue and Secretary [Antony] Blinken. I guess for all the industrial engineers out there, at least I give you hope that even imaginary engineers can do big things in life. 

I am somewhat not much older than all of you, yet I have been asked to speak, not because I am a great orator or because I have a number of impressive accolades — well, maybe two Super Bowl rings. I just happen to be blessed by God to be really good at kicking a funny-shaped ball between two yellow posts. 

So for someone who is not paid to speak for a living, I’m about to pop off some hard truths. I don’t care if you have a successful career. I don’t care if you have a big bank account, whether you fly private. Many of you in this crowd will achieve these things. Some of you maybe already have. But in the end, no matter how much money you attain, none of it will matter if you are alone and devoid of purpose. 

As someone raised in a family of overachievers, success was expected; and as a young man, I found happiness in being celebrated for my worldly achievements. My inner desire to be celebrated manifested academically through long hours of study and, of course, riding the curve. That desire was pushed further by the many successes I attained playing here on the flats. 

All of you are here today because you are smart, capable and hardworking people. And as long as I am being honest, the world is filled with miserable smart, capable and hardworking people. There are too many examples to list of people who have achieved great worldly success and fleeting happiness, but, in the end, are unfulfilled. 

Now, don’t get me wrong: I want you to be successful. 

But this isn’t so much about your career as it is using your talents, being your best, fulfilling the potential you were created for. 

It is said: “What’s done in the darkness will be brought to the light.”

This is a powerful reminder to us all that our actions matter, whether they are seen or not. Some of the most important people who have ever lived remain unknown, and their stories have yet to be told. But they still used their God-given talents to do great things and change the world. What a profound example to be motivated by our purpose rather than the current spotlight of the world. 

For many of you, your academic careers are coming to an end. For some, this is just one of many milestones. Either way, it is important to use today as an opportunity to take stock of your mission. 

Our culture is suffering. We all see it. It doesn’t matter which political persuasion you sit on or whether you are a person of deep faith or not — anyone with eyes can see that something is off. 

Studies have shown one of the many negative effects of the pandemic is that a lot of young adults feel a sense of loneliness, anxiety and depression, despite technology that has connected us more than ever before. It would seem the more connected people are to one another, the more they feel alone. I am not sure the root of this, but at least I can offer one controversial antidote that I believe will have a lasting impact for generations to come: Get married, and start a family. I will say: This is the most important thing I have right here. 

Having kicked the game-winning field goal in both the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, I have received a great deal of praise for these successes. They just announced that this Super Bowl was the most-watched football game of all time, and yet all this happiness is temporary. 

And the truth is, none of these accomplishments mean anything compared to the happiness I have found in my marriage and in starting a family. My confidence as a husband and father, and, yes, even as a football player, is rooted in marriage with my wife, as we leave our mark on future generations by the children we bring into the world. How much greater of a legacy can anyone leave than that? 

Sadly, we are encouraged to live our lives for ourselves, to move from one thing to another with no long-term commitment; to have loyalty for nothing but ourselves and sacrifice only when it suits our own interests. This loneliness is rooted in the lies being sold about self-dependence and prioritizing our career over important relationships. 

Recently, pro-football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe was on the New Heights podcast with my teammate Travis Kelce, and he said the one thing he wishes he could tell his inner self is that “everything you’ve accomplished doesn’t mean anything because you don’t have anybody to share it with.”

As you leave Tech, you will continue to face challenges. We might live in a retively safe society, but make no mistake, there is always war currently being waged around us: war amongst families, war on truths; and even Elon Musk and those pesky Twitter wars. There is a feeling of hopelessness for the future, and we continue to become entrenched in our respective groups. 

Identity politics has caused us to look at one another through a prism of hate and lack of respect for the human person. It seems the days of seeing the value of others may be gone, understanding that all people have value, bestowed upon them by the Creator. 

Gone are the days when the plurality of thought was accepted and encouraged. Instead, freedom of thought has been replaced by a culture built on cancellations for those who disagree. 

In order for us to realize the full potential of our abilities, we must take risks at the expense of being silenced. There will always be critics and those that disagree with our viewpoints. However, if we shy away from confrontation, then the only voices left will be the ones with the most power. 

As a young man on this campus, it was the Catholic Center that laid the foundation for me to prioritize meaningful relationships and become the husband and father I am today. 

While I am still striving to be a better, more virtuous man, I am confident that, with God and with my wife by my side, I can do more than I ever could have imagined alone. 

You all know that I am just a kicker, but it’s my other job where I have been able to use even more of my talents and grow further. I co-founded MDKeller with my best friend to support a diversified family of businesses that unite around our ethos of shared values and shared success. As a student, I could never have fathomed that i would someday play in the Super Bowl three times; and, yet more surprisingly, that I would start my own company. Everyday at MDKeller is exciting. Companies like Novice have been great partners in bringing high-quality athletic gear all across the nation and even to the Kansas City Chiefs. 

As someone who understands the importance of dressing well outside of just your workout clothes and maybe your ABC pants, I am thrilled to announce that this summer we will launch Shepherd’s, a men’s clothing store based out of Kansas City. We are even having conversations about joining a successful chain of funeral homes. Now, that’s one enterprise where you don’t want to think outside the box. Across the board, we are willing to take risks and aim high because we are unapologetically ourselves and we know our purpose. I am excited for the future of MDKeller and know that with those closest to me by my side and a resounding belief that God is in control, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished. 

I pray that something I said has resonated with you all and that, no matter what happens from here on out, remember your purpose. 

Focus on meaningful relationships, and know that, with or without the spotlight, your life has value, and you are meant for more. 

Continue to push onward “to the heights.” Thank you.