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: Ready to Graduate? : 2015 Graduation Keynote Speaker Speech

2015 Keynote Speaker
Brig. Gen. Cedric D. George

Brig. Gen. Cedric D. George was the 2015 keynote speaker at the Middle Georgia State College commencement ceremonies held on Thursday, May 14. These are the remarks he prepared for delivery.

Brig. Gen. Cedric D. George Click the picture to see video

Good morning / afternoon, and thanks for that warm welcome.

Please allow me to start by thanking everyone involved in setting up today’s ceremony – I’m well aware these things don’t magically come together … but it’s important that they look like they do, so we can focus all our attention on the graduates. And Middle Georgia State College has done just that today with this amazing ceremony – so thanks.

Dr. Blake -- thanks for the invitation … and the honor of sharing a few nuggets with the outstanding Class of 2015.

I would also like to thank the members of the faculty and staff for your dedication and commitment to these students. Not just these students, but all the students you have worked with, year in and year out. You are living the life lessons I’m about to share with the graduates. And the fruits of your labor … your students … will move on to do even greater things.

Of course, a very special welcome to the family members and friends of our graduates. The day would not be the same for them without you being here. I know you are proud of them (and if you can’t tell) … so are we.

I want to take a moment to recognize those who have invested so much — the proud parents of the graduates today. Each parent here has a story about what was required for your child to achieve this goal, I’m sure over the years there were highs and lows, but you and your child hung in there and today we celebrate the culmination of years of hard work — graduation!

Finally, thanks to the Class of 2015 for giving us all a reason to be here!

Grads, today is a big deal. You are a big deal; today … all of this is for you. Today, you should stand taller. You should walk around with your chin up and have a hop in your step … a swagger in your walk. Today is the culmination of years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication. I honored your parents a moment ago for pushing you along … but in the end, it was you who stayed the course and did not quit! Give yourselves another round of applause … you certainly deserve it!

I promise that we will get to presenting the degrees here shortly. But before we set you loose in the world – all that raw power and intellect, all your young energy – there are just a few seeds I want to plant in your minds.

You have finished this race – and you’ve learned a lot doing it. But you will run more races. You will run longer races. Races with higher stakes … that affect not just you, but your family, your friends, your community, and even the world.

So while I want you to celebrate today, and revel in what you’ve accomplished … I also want you thinking about that next race you’re going to run.

I’d love to tell you there’s a formula for success … but there isn’t. Instead, I’d like to offer for your consideration three winning lessons that I am learning on my servant leadership journey. My hope is that, in sharing these with you, you can leverage the years I’ve spent figuring it out, and give you a leg up.

The first one is: Commit to Lifelong Learning.

26 years ago, when I graduated college, I was walking tall. I felt like I had arrived. But looking back I had only scratched the surface of what this learning thing was all about. What I didn’t realize was that to be successful in life – throughout your life – you can never stop learning.

As a lifelong learner, I suggest you must remain a student of themselves and then others … in that order. Graduates you must get used to asking yourself two simple (yet hard) questions on at least an annual basis: Repeat after me: What about me … must stay the same?

These are the things you do that allows you to:
-- Meet your goals and dreams,
-- Allows you to move forward like you’ve done so beautifully today and
-- Adds life to you and others. We know what those things are … hard work, tenacity. Keep doing those things and commit to making each day better than the previous day.

But the harder second question … What about me must change?

These are the things you do that:
-- Inhibit you from meeting your goals and dreams;
-- Things that keep you stuck and cause you to go backwards;
-- The things that sucks life from you and the people in your life circle.
-- A life-long learner is comfortable asking and answering these penetrating questions of themselves and taking action to keep learning, change behavior and grow.

I know some of you are sitting there saying: Really? Lifelong learning … you can’t just let me enjoy today?

Well, I’ll give you today. Maybe even tomorrow. But make no mistake: Your graduation from this institution serves as just one milestone. It’s an important one – a critical one, even – but it’s far nearer to the start of your life’s educational experience than the end.

A lifelong learner is a student of others. Seek out those with different viewpoints. Listen first … ask engaging questions … listen again … challenge your own assumptions … and learn! And not only do I promise it will make you a more successful, productive person … it will make your life a heck of a lot less boring … a heck of a lot more exciting and fun.

So today — commit yourself to lifelong learning.

Second, Invest in your Community.

Class 2015, you have shown an unwavering commitment to Middle Georgia State College over the years. You have supported each other, helped each other through finals and cheered each other in competition. You’ve kept each other informed, challenged one another’s thinking, and helped make the school better through societies, newspapers, focus groups, and student government. And I know at least some of you are thinking today, “Wow…what am I going to do without my friends, my clubs, my classes…?!”

I have great news for you: You don’t have to do without!  It just won’t be quite as easy from here on out. You’ll have to work a little harder to find like-minded individuals. They won’t all live in the same few-mile radius, and won’t come with a handy title like the “Gaming Club” or “Middle Georgia State College Student Government Association.” You may have to organize your own interest groups. But you’ve got to do it. You must carry this sense of community you feel right now, forward.

As you leave the halls of this great institution, I promise you won’t remember what you scored on your physics final … I hope, sorry Professor Shah … but you will remember the things you did to leave this place better than you found it. You will remember the things you did to improve your campus and community, and the things you did to help each other along on this journey. We all have a responsibility to pay it forward. You have that responsibility, that privilege.

So take those passions you’ve developed here at school and re-invest them in whatever communities you find yourselves in: Family, circles of friends, clubs and organizations, local or national government. Big or small – every effort counts.

Finally—Leave Your Legacy.

Class of 2015, What do you want to be remembered for?

This class will leave a legacy at this institution. You can say that you graduated in the last class under the banner of Middle Georgia State College. Going forward this institution ascends to a university! I’m so very proud of you. Middle Georgia State College! That’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of. But I’m here to tell you: Your personal legacy will mean more and more to you with each passing day.

Each of you has special gifts and unique talents. Some of you know what those gifts and talents are, and some of you will discover it later on. But your legacy is not reserved for the senior years of life. It’s something you build every day.

So don’t let your time simply pass away … make it count. Take your talents and help those around you be better people. Live your values. Stand up for what you believe in. Make a difference, and if you make a difference in something small each and every day, I guarantee: It adds up to a big legacy. Walk away from mediocrity; refuse to be average. The road to success is a journey.

But the journey is not easy. To be successful, you have to surround yourself with success every day. You have to make the tough choices. Sometimes you have to sacrifice personal interests for the good of a larger goal.

But nothing worthwhile comes easy. And really: Why would you want it to? There’s no accomplishment when things are easy; no sense of personal sacrifice and success. What would those diplomas mean if they printed them for anyone who wanted one?

Cementing your legacy will require all of you, every little piece of you, that last bit of energy, all your resources for your whole life. There is only one way – to give it all you have, each and every day.

Just like you’ve done to get here today. Be intentional about how you want to be remembered…and you will live a rewarding life.

Now, I know some of this may not resonate that much with you right now. I know when I was sitting in your seat 26 years ago I thought I understood what was required – I certainly didn’t need an old guy standing at a podium to lay it out for me. “Old guy”… wow, how time flies?!

So I just ask that you think it over – consider it this summer, as you start the next chapter. All of you will find that over time your values will change. They will mature – it’s just science. A veiled attempt to get back into Prof Shah’s graces.

Serving others, giving back, and leaving a meaningful mark will become more and more and more important to you over the years.

Ask your faculty and staff … they’ll tell you. Ask your parents … they’ll tell you, too. And as important as it is to you it’s even more important to those around you.

You represent the future. You will one day lead – lead in your family, in your circle of friends, at your business, in your community, and in your nation. And you’ll be most effective as a leader only when you lead with deliberation for the right reasons.

Thank you for the hard work that got you here today.

Thanks in advance for your commitment to:
-- Never stop learning.
-- Pay it forward by investing in your community like your parents, family and friends, and faculty and staff did for you.
-- Build your legacy, every day, with every decision and action you take.

And a special thanks for letting me be here to share this special moment with you. This is an wonderful honor.

Congratulations, Middle Georgia State College Class of 2015 and welcome to the rest of your life. We can’t wait to see what you do with it, but one thing’s for sure. It is going to be truly awesome.

  LAST MODIFIED: 6/7/2016