For Starkville Daily News
Addressing nearly 1,400 Mississippi State University graduates at fall commencement ceremonies Saturday, Gov. Phil Bryant conveyed the state’s pride in its graduates.
The governor said one day after the tragic school shooting in Connecticut that the whole country is experiencing a time of national sorrow, and he offered a prayer for the pain and anguish of the parents and community affected. However, he went on to tell graduates that victories also must be celebrated, and their achievements should not be diminished during their time of recognition for such an important achievement.
“We must remember tragedies and celebrate victories,” Bryant said. “We all come together in difficult times.”
Referring to his inaugural theme, “Rise Together,” and reflecting on Mississippi’s own times of trial, the governor said his parents’ generation often talked in terms of “before the flood” and “after the flood.” The Moorhead native described how Mississippians had worked through the Great Depression and the Civil Rights movement, when a “shadow” was cast across the state.
He said through hard work and determination, Mississippians had been successful to rise above past hardships.
Touting his recently announced education plan, the governor said that as graduates of MSU, which holds the highest designation from the Carnegie Foundation that any research university can hold, the new alumni clearly understand the importance of educational achievement.
“I remember a professor telling me, ‘Your life will never be the same now that you’re a college graduate,’” Bryant said, adding that loving parents and two older brothers were his support system to become the first college graduate in his family.
Noting that Mississippi is the birthplace of America’s music, Bryant told graduates, “Find your song, and share it with the world.” He encouraged them to serve others.
Improvements to the state’s education system, “will bring a melody to children’s lives — a melody of success,” he said.
The governor said open enrollment, merit pay for teachers, and honoring craftsmen who want to become educated in a trade, such as plumbing or electrical technology, are all important factors in moving Mississippi’s schools forward.
Bryant encouraged the audience to seek wisdom and share their talents with others.
“We need your talent and your leadership to help us continue pushing forward,” Bryant said.
MSU President Mark E. Keenum presented Bryant with a framed certificate declaring him an “Honorary Bulldog,” along with a cowbell. “Here’s something no self-respecting Bulldog should be without,” Keenum said.
Keenum, upon congratulating the newest graduating class, said the new graduates, like him, are among more than 124,000 living alumni whose lives have been transformed at MSU.