Two years ago, about the time many of you were beginning your studies here at LCC, President Obama challenged us to increase the number of community college graduates in America by 5 million by the year 2020.
As I mentioned earlier, LCC students have completed 745 degrees and certificates this year. That's a 28% increase over last year, a tremendous accomplishment! You are certainly doing your part to answer the President's challenge.
Equally important, 152 of you are graduating with honors; that's 25% more than last June. So even though we are serving 41% more students here at LCC, the quality of your education has not declined.
During the past several years, because of high unemployment and other economic problems, there has been a lot of emphasis on learning new job skills to succeed in the workplace. But equally important during your time here, is acquiring the ability to think and to analyze information; to determine fact from fiction and good from evil.
Both types of knowledge are crucial for surviving in today's world. Lately it seems that messages we receive, both in traditional and new social media, are designed more to deceive us than to inform us. Watch out for those who would reframe old issues in new words.
While it may seem like we are living in the most difficult of times, those living during the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II most likely felt the same way. Times are difficult, but not as bad as during the Depression.
Thanks to the efforts of community members who established this college during that period in history, you have the resources to improve your life and your community.
All it takes to be successful is YOU. That said, there are some things YOU must do to achieve that success:
First, set Goals and a Direction
If you don't care where you are going, any road can get you there. But to be successful you need to know where you are going and how to get there.
Once you know where you are going, you'll need Discipline and Drive to get there. Nothing works unless you do.
Finally, help each other along the way. We live in a society that only functions well when everyone joins the team. That team includes your family, your community, our country and the world. We need to make this a better place for others; as well as for ourselves. Some people call that 'Love'.
For the past 14 years, I have had one of the best jobs in our community serving as President of Lower Columbia College. I get to brag about the wonderful accomplishments of our students and our college. Many are listed in this evening's program. Thank you for making me look so good.
Education is a personal achievement that you will use to enrich your own lives on economic, social and spiritual levels. It is also a community investment. As you go about your personal and professional lives, remember that you have a responsibility to your community, your nation and the world to pay it forward.
To give back to those who sacrificed to make this opportunity possible by ensuring that our community has the economic resources, governing structures and services required to perpetuate a quality of life for all of our citizens.
You have an obligation to make sure these same opportunities are available for your children and grandchildren. You can do this by supporting accessible education for everyone, as taxpaying citizens, and as private individuals through charitable donations to the LCC Foundation and to other funds that benefit education.
When I retire in September as President of Lower Columbia College, I will certainly miss the time I spend with our students. Each of you has an inspiring story to tell. But I leave knowing that my efforts, and the work you have done as students here, will continue to benefit our community in the decades to come.
Congratulations, once again, on your achievements here at LCC and best of luck as you move forward on your journey of personal and professional success.