Dec. 20‚ 2002 Commencement Speech

Georgia (Dec 20, 2002) —  President Siegel, faculty, staff and students, thank you for inviting me to be a part of this very special day in your lives. I am truly honored and pleased to be with you today.

During the year I have been in Georgia, I have gained a great appreciation for the University System, its Board of Regents, the presidents, faculty and staff. But I’ve been most impressed by the students who attend our institutions. I believe our future is in good hands.

There is an old saying that a speech doesn’t have to be eternal to be immortal. I will keep this in mind today. It is an adage similar to the Irish birthday blessing, which says you have to be present for the party to occur, but no one expects you to say much! My remarks will be brief, but I hope effective.

You are special. You are unique. The fact is, only a small percentage of the adult population holds a college degree -- that’s true nationally and it’s true in Georgia. And as you prepare to graduate today you are at the end of a long pipeline. At the beginning of the pipeline -- in elementary school -- you were one in 10 students who began. Farther down the pipe, six of your original 10 classmates graduated from high school. Only three of you went on to college. And now today, just one of that original ten is graduating from college.

That one is you.

So you are unique and very special and in just a few minutes, you will join that elite group known as university graduates. You will occupy a special place in our society and you will carry more responsibilities simply because you are a university graduate.

The good news is that you will make more money in your lifetime because you are a university graduate. The latest data shows you will earn more than double the income of the average high school graduate.

You came to Kennesaw State four -- or five -- or six years ago. You arrived on the campus and said, "I’ve made a commitment to obtain more education. I want to be as prepared as I possibly can be to face life’s challenges. I want to contribute to this world and I want to be successful."

You asked this institution to help you reach this next level. You could have chosen from colleges and universities around the country, but you wisely picked Kennesaw State. They accepted your challenge.

By reputation, I could guess that you encountered a competent and caring faculty and a supportive staff and administration along your journey. And it is obvious by the attendance here today that you have been well supported in many ways.

Many of you are the first in your family to earn a university diploma, as I was. Many of you are non-traditional, older students. Some of you have overcome special barriers, such as physical or financial ones, to earn a degree. You may have been earning a degree, working and raising a family -- all at the same time.

But the fact is, you made it. You are the survivor of the original 10 students. You have demonstrated a drive for success and the strength necessary to accomplish a goal. This demonstration should give you the confidence to take on anything, anywhere.

An old Chinese proverb says, "The gem cannot be perfected without friction nor the person perfected without trials."

By being here today, you are telling everyone you have what it takes. However, I must tell you that as good as you are, this is only the beginning! As you may have noticed, the title of this ceremony -- commencement -- tells the whole story. This is not the ending of your education, but rather the commencement of the rest of your lives and the commencement of the next phase of your education.

The intelligent person knows that the more we learn, the more we realize how much we do not know. Alex Goldberg said, "Progress is not impeded by ignorance, but by the illusion of knowledge." Those of us in education hope we have instilled in you the desire to want to know more -- not because someone is making you,
but because you want to know. We can only hope to touch the fire to the wick of learning. You must keep it going!

Richard Franke, CEO of a major corporation, said: "Learning is an unending process that goes on during our entire lifetime. It is unrealistic and even sad to think that study and our education should end with graduation."

I also would add that because today’s world is changing so rapidly, you must continue your development
and your education in order to remain valuable and viable. And get ready for change. The average person changes jobs 11 times in his or her career. Even more startling, that average person changes careers three times
in their working years … not always by choice.

The workplace is in constant change. Projections are that by 2010, 70 percent of the labor force will be involved in making products not yet invented in 2000. Another projection states that by 2015, all of the knowledge known to mankind will be doubling every 73 days.

What you have learned so far will serve as an important base for the commencement of the rest of your learning. It cannot be the end.

Kennesaw State has prepared you well for the challenges in front of you. As you leave this institution, open the door for others by supporting this university with your financial support. It is important to the next generation of students that you support Kennesaw State. Stay involved and stay connected. Be philanthropic toward this great institution and help recruit new students.

Now those magic words, "Let me close with these thoughts."

What is inside of us is really what makes us successful. In that vein, let me ask you to do three things.

One -- always be a dreamer and then pursue your dreams. In other words, don’t be satisfied with that which is easily attainable or easily within your grasp. Be a visionary! Dream and go for it! It requires more from you, but it is worth it. The bird that only glides stays at that level, at best. The bird that soars uses more energy, but rises to great heights.

Two -- always give more than is expected. No matter how monumental the task or how small the request, always give more than was asked. Whether we are talking about work, studies, families, friends or church, take one more step than was expected.

Three -- always be humane and caring with your fellow human beings. Take time to listen, to care, and to share. Mother Teresa said, "Kind words can be short and sweet, but their echoes are endless." Someone else said, "Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed."

So, one -- see farther than you can see and go for it; two -- always do more than is expected of you; and three -- be humane and caring. And of course: keep on learning. If you will do these things, then I guarantee you will be successful!

Luke 12:48 says: "To whom much has been given, much is required." You have been given much and you have used what you have been given to be here today. Now use those talents to make the great state of Georgia and our country a better place to be. Congratulations and good luck. 


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit