OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Remarks by Assistant Secretary Pat Stanley at Hillsborough Community College Commencement
Tampa, Florida

May 10, 2007
Contact: Angela Desrochers
(202) 245-7722

We are all very proud of your accomplishments. By we, I mean President Bush, Secretary of Education Spellings, Hillsborough Community College faculty, staff, board of trustees, the special guests from your community who are here tonight, and especially those who know you best, your families, spouses, children, parents, friends, and colleagues.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges the average age of a community college student is 29 (The average age at Hillsborough is 24). Most of you have worked while earning your degree or certificate, many of you are parents, and many of you have a variety of other family and personal commitments that perhaps presented challenges to your success. You persevered, you met the challenges and you are graduating. With your family and friends in front of you, tonight’scommencement is a symbol that you have reached your goals. Many of you are here tonight, because you and your families were willing to do whatever it took to help you get here, and so I invite and encourage you to enjoy what you have achieved and to include those who helped you along the way in your joy.

Having accomplished the goal we are celebrating tonight means that you have successfully traversed another part of your life’s path. This is an intermediate goal, and the reason why thisceremony is called a commencement. The word commencement means a beginning, a start. You are starting a new phase of your life. What is your next goal toward your lifetime goal? When you close your eyes, what do you see yourself accomplishing next? Will you be

  1. Looking for a new or more responsible job?
  2. Transferring to another college or university?
  3. Applying what you have learned here to provide a better quality of life for you and your family?
  4. Making a positive contribution to your community or society?

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Today you realized a beautiful dream by graduating from Hillsborough Community college; now go forth with new, beautiful dreams, and make them realities.

As a community college, Hillsborough Community College collectively visualized its future and created a vision to deliver education of the highest standards enabling a diverse community of life-long learners to achieve their maximum potential in a global society. As you become one of Hillsborough Community College alumni tonight, I hope you will remember that as you pursue a life of learning, your community college will always be here for you. Come back whenever this college can assist you in reaching another milestone on the way to realizing your dreams.

Graduate, this is your night! Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. Enjoy the gift of this celebration of you.

Let’s talk about you, collectively as community college students and as individuals with all of the potential to shape your futures.

In the 1,200 community colleges across the country are almost 12 million students like you who chose to begin a life-long adventure in learning at a “near-home” college

According to the American Association of Community Colleges nationally, 59% of community college students are women and 41% are men. At Hillsborough Community College, men represent 44% of the student body, and women 56 %.

Community college students comprise 46% of the nation’s undergraduates, a majority of whom work full or part time while attending school, and 39% are the first generation in the family to attend college.

Approximately 550,000 community college students will receive their Associate degree this year and another 270,000 will earn certificates.

Community Colleges are at the forefront in many significant fields:

  1. Health care: 50% of new nurses and the majority of other new health-care workers are educated at community colleges.
  2. International Programs: Close to 100,000 international students attend community colleges-about 39% of all international undergraduate students in the United States.
  3. Workforce Training: 95% of businesses and organizations that employ community college graduates recommend community college workforce education and training programs.
  4. Homeland Security: Close to 80% of firefighters, law enforcement officers, and Emergency Management Technicians are credentialed at community colleges.

The five hottest community college programs are registered nursing, law enforcement, licensed practical nursing, radiology, and computer technologies. Finally, the average expected lifetime earnings for a graduate with an Associate degree is $1.6 million-about $.4 million more than a high school graduate earns.

You made an excellent choice in selecting Hillsborough Community College. A Midwest newspaper once described community colleges in this way, “It was the community college that painted its ivory tower a rainbow of colors that demolished the notion that a college education was only for the affluent.”

While Hillsborough Community College is a young 39 years old, community colleges are over 100 years old. Tonight you will be joining the ranks of many, many alumni of community colleges across the country who each have a wonderful story to tell about their first experience in post-secondary education at one of the 1,200 community colleges across our country.

I have personally heard numerous stories about outstanding alumni. One 80- year old Nobel Laureate in Chemistry told us the background in science he received and the professors he had at his local community college were better than what he experienced during his continuing education at a major U.S. university. The former chancellor of the Community Colleges of Chicago moved an entire national audience as he spoke of his humble beginnings and how attending Joliet Junior College in Illinois, the oldest public community college in the U.S., had changed his life. He told us about his dreams of education, which have been fulfilled, and he spoke of the awe and joy he felt in heading a large community college system that is offering the same opportunity to others.

Community college graduates include many successful business executives, scientists (recently honored was the man who mapped the human genome), musicians (two members of the group Alabama, for example), other highly accomplished artists such as Diane Keaton and Clint Eastwood, Pulitzer Prize winning writers and photographers, astronauts, politicians (including my former governor, Paris Glendening of Maryland) and a number of people sitting on this stage who are past community college graduates. As you walk across this stage tonight you are joining a 100-year tradition of success.

You are also joining a small percentage of the world’s people with a college education. According to the Family Care Foundation, if there were just 100 people in the world, sixty-seven would be unable to read, 7 would have access to the Internet, and ONE would be a college graduate. Joining that small elite group of “college educated” brings with it responsibilities.

Hillsborough Community College graduates, your courage astounds us. You have what Mark Milliron, former president and chief executive officer of the League for Innovation in the Community College calls, “the courage to learn.” Those who work at Hillsborough Community College are pushed and pulled by classes, calendars, and other pressures of the higher education sector, but when they slow down, look around, and listen to your stories, they, like me, are humbled and reminded of why we are here.

Many of you were the first in your families to come to a college campus. At times, you must have felt as though no one understood how daunting a task it was just to get started. You filled out forms, met with advisors, took placement tests, pieced together a schedule, stepped into the classrooms, whether they were online or on campus, and entered a new world.

Nonetheless, those in your lives who care about and love you most, truly wanted you to succeed. Some of them have struggled financially or borrowed money to give you this opportunity. While you were happy to have their support, you may have also felt pressured by the weight of their expectations.

Many of you also struggled with uncooperative job schedules that made attending class difficult Weekend or evening courses were a must, even though you might have been mentally and physically worn out. Some of you have major family responsibilities-you searched to find good childcare and wrestled with the guilt of being away from your children, even though your going to college would ultimately mean a better life for them. Still others of you strived to care for parents, grandchildren, or other family members while going to school.

Your making these efforts to improve your lives has taught us that the time it takes to complete a course or program isn’t really the issue. Time will pass no matter what. What matters is that you moved to a place where new learning has opened up different pathways for your careers and lives. Some of you may have needed to “stop out” for a time to take care of life’s situations, but you came back and Hillsborough Community College was happy to welcome you back.

What will you do after graduation tonight? What happens after you move on to work or other education? Some of you will go on to run multinational corporations, fly through space, star in movies, run statehouse, and map the human genome, as other community college students have done. Others will target your talents closer to home-raising families, serving your community, creating new businesses, fighting fires, saving lives, or teaching children. In short, you will all make personal contributions to humanity and these will serve as a model to others for stretching themselves to do the same.

And it all began with your choice, an incredibly courageous choice. You chose to try-to walk through the open doors of Hillsborough Community College and begin. You chose to stay, to engage, to give it your best. That choice has and will continue to change your lives forever--all because you had the “courage to learn.”

Graduates, we know many of you took a risk to come to college and to strive toward your goals. One goal--your degree or certificate from Hillsborough Community College--has been reached tonight. But remember, this is an intermediate goal and this has prepared you to take another risk. Why should you do so? As some of the wonderful athletes/classmates from your winning teams will tell you, you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Each and every one of you can make a difference in your community, in our global society, and we encourage you to rely on what you learned here to do that.

I would like to close my remarks with the challenge from the short piece entitled The Power of One. (Anonymous)
One song can spark a moment,
One flower can wake the dream,
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald a spring.

One smile begins a friendship,
One handclasp lifts a soul,
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame a goal.

One vote can change a nation,
One sunbeam lights a room,
One candle wipes out darkness,
One laugh will conquer gloom.

One step must start each journey,
One word must start each prayer,
One hope will raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care.

One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know the truth,
One life can make a difference,
You see, it’s up to you!

Success is what makes each of us love what we do at our nation’s community colleges.
Confucius is credited with saying “If you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.”
I wish you that love of what you have chosen to do.

Congratulations to all of the graduates of the Hillsborough Community College class of 2007. You have heard many words tonight-words of praise and congratulations, words that challenge you to achieve in the future. I want to give you the 10 most powerful two-letter words in the English language. I hope you will remember them:

If it is to be, it is up to me.
If it is to be it is up to me.

Indeed the future is up to each of you. Congratulations and my best wishes for your future.


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Last Modified: 10/16/2007