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Dr. Hopkins’ address to GSC grads

Dr. Tommy Hopkins, chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, gave the commencement address at Gordon State College May 12, 2017. His remarks follow: Thanks to President Burns of Gordon State College for the kind introduction and the invitation to be here today. I’ve had much exposure to the excellent nursing program and the students that do their clinical work in Griffin. Barnesville is a great community and I’ve been close to the school, friends, and bankers for many years. I’m excited to be on campus and honored to join you as you celebrate your graduation with your families and friends. As you prepare for the next phase of your life, enter the workforce and move on with your life’s journey, I’ll offer you some thoughts as you consider the investments you have made and will continue to make. You have invested in Gordon State and in turn the faculty and staff have supported you to graduation. You, together with your parents and your family, are not the only ones who have made an investment in your college education. The citizens of Georgia have also invested in you, because the college graduates of this state represent the future of Georgia. In addition to helping meet the needs of our workforce, a college education also means tangible benefits to the individual graduate. Brains have surpassed brawn as the driver of economic prosperity, and as a lifelong resident of Georgia, I can assure you there are many opportunities for college graduates in Georgia. Even as you invest your time and energy in building your careers, you will be building our economy and helping our state and its communities to thrive. But it is important to understand that ‘earning’ by itself is not ‘living.’ Your degree is more than just an item of currency to be traded on the job market. The largest investment of your life ‘“ the grand challenge, if you will ‘“ should be to develop yourself as a person. Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.’ Churchill’s quote reminds me of a story, which I’ll take a moment to share with you today: One day, a boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house he came to; however, he lost his nerve when a young woman opened the door. Instead of a meal, he asked her for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry, so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, ‘How much do I owe you?’ ’You don’t owe me anything,’ she replied. ‘My Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.’ The boy said, ‘Then I thank you from my heart.’ As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit. Many years later that same kind woman became critically ill, and she was sent to see a specialist to study her rare disease, and a Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When Dr. Kelly heard the name of the town the woman had come from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room; dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room, determined to do his best to save her life, and from that day, he gave special attention to the case. After a long struggle, the woman’s battle with illness was won. Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room. The woman feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally, she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She began to read the following words: ‘Paid in full with one glass of milk. Signed, Dr. Howard Kelly.’ The lesson and challenge represented by this story is clear: What you sow, so shall you reap. Your family and Gordon State College have given you a good start on that lesson, and today that effort is handed over to you. So, take your courage in both hands and set out on the journey of ‘reaping’ as well as ‘sowing.’ Using your college education to serve a worthwhile cause that is greater than yourself is one of the most fulfilling investments you can make. Investing your time and talent in the act of giving can be as rewarding as giving money. In many cases, it is even more rewarding and does more to nurture you as a person. As you leave this campus, and use your college education to invest in building a life for yourself, don’t forget to also invest in making your community, your state, and the world a better place. The return on that investment will be one of the best parts of your life. One of the most valuable things ‘“ if not the most valuable thing ‘“ you should take away from your time at Gordon State College is the relationships you’ve gained, so treasure those and stay connected. Of course, your education does not end today. You will need to keep learning the whole way through your life, and hopefully, Gordon State College has helped you prepare for that by teaching you how to learn. I look forward to following your careers and celebrating the achievements that lie ahead of you as you invest in building your careers and your lives. Congratulations!

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