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Sen. Chambliss’ address to GSC grads

Sen Saxby Chambliss gave the commencement address at Gordon State College Friday. The following is the text of his remarks: Thank you, Dr. Burns, for that generous introduction. President Burns, trustees, alumni, graduates, family and friends: Thank you for allowing me to share this wonderful day in your lives and in the life of this institution. There is another group of people whom we should thank today. That is the proud parents ‘“ and in particular, all of the mothers on this weekend of Mother’s Day. These women are at the very core of our accomplishments. So as we honor you, Class of 2013, it is only fitting that we honor our mothers today. I’d like to ask every mother here to stand so we can say ‘thank you’ for all you do for our families. Fathers, we tip our hats and thank you, too. But you’ll have to wait another month for your official recognition. We are gathering here today on beautiful Lambdin Green to celebrate the graduation of 600 women and men from this special place. While I know many of you are excited to find out what the future holds, you’re probably also a little sad to leave Gordon State. But remember: Today is about beginnings, not endings. In fact, Webster’s dictionary defines ‘commencement’ as ‘the act of starting something.’ You’ll find that the friendships you’ve made here and the lessons you’ve learned will ground you as you face the joys and challenges that become part of your life story. I know it’s hard for you to see the news these days and not worry about your generation and how it will be treated. And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with how much the world has changed, even since you entered Gordon State. Look no further than the events in Boston last month, where in a single instant, a joyous event celebrating human stamina and achievement transformed into a scene of life-changing carnage. Uncertainty and unease are two very powerful emotions. In my position as vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I hear daily about what a scary place the world can be, and oftentimes I’m privy to details that keep me awake at night. But I also hear how dedicated young people like you are out there day and night, piecing together valuable information, foiling plots, taking down bad guys and preventing another Boston or September 11th or Oklahoma City from happening. The things you’ve learned here at Gordon State and how you build on those experiences will have a direct impact on America’s place in world. 5 Some of you will choose to join those already in uniform who are serving our country, and I salute you for your decision. Others of you will serve our country differently: In laboratories, some of you will tackle the problems that could prevent bioterrorism or cure diabetes. In engineering firms, others of you will invent new technologies. In classrooms, you will educate the next generation of America’s leaders. In businesses, you will help promote American competitiveness. On farms, you will revolutionize agriculture with new technology. No matter what career you embrace, or how you decide to fit into this changing world, do it with excellence. I’m supposed to be giving you advice today. And I would advise any young person about to embark on adulthood to always embrace humility. Why? Because you’re going to need it. Because somewhere along the line, you are going to fail. And you’re going to fail spectacularly. You won’t be alone. Here are some other abject failures: Oprah Winfrey was fired as a reporter early in her career for being ‘unfit for TV.’ Despite finishing third in her law school class, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor couldn’t even land an interview with nearly 40 law firms, and was offered a job as a secretary. And Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper job because he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas.’ I speak from experience. My first run for office was not a success. In fact, back in 1992 when I first ran for Congress, I only won a little more than 30 percent of the primary vote. Every successful person has stumbled somewhere along the way. And most successful people have understood that only by embracing humility will they figure out a path to improvement. St. Augustine once queried: ‘Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. Do you plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.’ The very fact that you are sitting here today in your caps and gowns means you are blessed. And, as the Bible says in Luke, ‘For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.’ Thomas Jefferson put it a different way. He wrote, ‘There is a debt of service due from every man and woman to their country.’ I hope some of you will serve your nation in a way I did not mention earlier: by running for public office. Despite what the pundits, cynics and even the polls say, it is a noble calling. One of the esteemed graduates who sat here many years before you was a future governor and senator from Georgia named Richard Russell. I am not only fortunate enough to have been elected to his seat in the U.S. Senate, but I work in the building in Washington that bears his name, and I have the privilege of sitting at his desk on the Senate floor. In fact, my office even has the same phone number as Senator Russell. Among his many, many other accomplishments, Senator Russell was the father of the school lunch program. But despite all he did for Georgia and for America, when he left the Senate, he said the thing that would make him proudest is if his colleagues said he was an honorable man. Let Richard Russell’s humility and service to Georgia and to the nation be your guide. Get engaged. Be active at the local, state and federal political levels. Your community and your country need you. And in these uncertain times, they need your brainpower and gumption and enthusiasm more than ever. If running for public office is your calling, work hard at it. And if you are successful, continue to work hard to represent your constituents. Above 10 all, whatever your life’s calling, stick to your principles and be bold. Your country offers you a great opportunity for success. I have every faith that your future is so bright. It’s yours for the taking. Godspeed as you begin that journey.

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