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WGU Bachelor's Ceremony, February 2019
WGU Bachelor's Ceremony, February 2019
Western Governors University
<p>Order of Events: Processional; National Anthem sang by Michael Tadeo; Welcome and Opening Remarks from WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Commencement Address delivered by Simon T. Bailey; Graduate Speakers are Gussie Hopkins and D'Lynn Linger; Conferral of Degrees by WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Closing by WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Recessional.</p> <p>Saturday, February 9, 2019 WGU Commencement in Orlando, Florida. This is a recording of the WGU Master's Ceremony.</p> <p>Transcription of video (note: This is not a complete transcription. Transcription only includes the Commencement Address and two Graduate Speakers):</p> <p>Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Disney Coronado Springs Resort. In preparation for the WGU Commencement, we ask that you please take your seats, clear the aisles, and silence your cell phones. The commencement ceremony is about to begin in a few minutes. </p> <p>Sarah DeMark: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 70th commencement ceremony for Western Governors University. Graduates, family, and friends, thank you for joining us as we celebrate this special occasion. Our ceremony is being recorded and streamed live over the Internet, so a special welcome to all of our online participants joining us from across the country, and around the world. Please silence your cell phones, but keep them nearby, as there will be an opportunity later in the program to share your achievement on social media. Please stand for the processional, and remain standing for the national anthem. </p> <p>[Processional and National Anthem] </p> <p>Scott Pulsipher: Thank you. Please take your seats. We'd like to thank Michael Tadeo from Los Angeles, California, who is graduating with his Bachelor of Science degree in software development, for performing our national anthem. Thank you, Michael. [Applause] </p> <p>Good afternoon, everyone. It is my honor to convene the 2019 WGU Commencement in Orlando, Florida. On behalf of the entire university, we welcome our honored graduates and congratulate you on completing one of life's great achievements. Let's hear it for our graduates. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>We also extend our warmest welcome to the many family members and friends who are here to support their graduates. In addition, we want to recognize and welcome the many graduates, who together with their family and friends, are watching this event via our live webcast. Let's give them a round of applause too. [Applause] </p> <p>Graduates, it is likely that today would not have been possible without the support of friends and family at your side. Would all of you, the friends and family of our graduates please stand up? All of you on that outer ring, let's have you all stand up. Graduates, let's hear it for your friends and family. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>At WGU, we also often have family members graduating together. If you are one of our graduates, who are also graduating with a family member, please stand up and be recognized. [Cheers and applause] What a special occasion it is to share this wonderful event together. </p> <p>WGU is honored to be recognized year after year as a military friendly university. We would like to recognize the military members who are graduating. So would the graduates who are active duty, reservists or veterans, please stand and be recognized? [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Thank you sincerely for your service. And last, but not least, if you, our students and alumni, are the lifeblood of this institution, then the faculty and staff are its heart. With you today are many of our WGU faculty, mentors, and employees. If you have been a beneficiary of the time and dedication they've put into their work, please put your hands together one last time, and recognize our faculty. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Twenty two years ago, WGU was officially founded. Twenty years ago, WGU enrolled its first student. The university now has more than 130,000 graduates. Since our last commencement in November 2018, 8,783 students have completed bachelor's or master's degrees at WGU. Today, we recognize the achievements of 1,254 graduates who are attending the ceremonies here in Orlando. Among these there are 648 receiving their bachelor's degrees and 606 receiving their master's degrees. Congratulations. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Together, you represent 46 states, the District of Colombia, and military installations overseas. Of the 1,254 attending today, nearly one third are from the great state of Florida. [Applause] Thank you all for being here. It is our privilege to be among all of you, and among those who are here to support you. Let me share some additional facts about our graduating class. Thirty nine percent of you are the first in your families to earn a college degree and we extend a special congratulations to you. [Applause] We know how important it is, we know also that the statistics show that if your parent earns a college degree, that you are ten times more likely to also complete your degree in college, so congratulations again to you first generation graduates. [Applause] </p> <p>Your average age is 38 years old. The youngest is 18, and the oldest is 74. [Cheers and applause] Ninety percent of you are over the age of 27, and on average, you completed your bachelor's degree in two years and five months. So congratulations to you, you're all overachievers. [Applause] </p> <p>And one last thing is that 71 percent of our graduates are also women. So it's inspiring to see so many powerful women. [Cheers and applause] It's inspiring to look at all of you, and consider your achievements knowing that you've juggled many priorities and faced many challenges along the way. You are the reason that we have gathered here. And for all of us at WGU, the reason why we believe in the importance of the work that we do. </p> <p>Today's commencement celebrates you, our graduates, for setting and accomplishing a significant goal and moving to a new stage of your life. You now join only 33 percent of adults in the U.S. who hold a bachelor's degree. Much will be expected of you as you continue your life journey, taking leadership roles in your businesses and in your communities. Education is the greatest predictor of career success. You worked hard to attain an educational milestone that will change the course of your life. It will change the course of your own history, and influence future generations. You have aspired to greater things. Thank you for letting all of us at WGU be but a small part in your journey. Congratulations again. [Applause] </p> <p>I'm pleased to present to you Simon T. Bailey, our commencement speaker. Simon is one of America's top ten most popular corporate and association speakers on change, leadership, and customer experience. He has worked with more than 1,500 organizations in 45 different countries. As an innovator, educator, executive advisor, and author, he shapes the lives of men and women around the world. </p> <p>Prior to founding his company, Simon held the role of Sales Director for the world renowned Disney Institute and worked in hospitality and tourism for 20 years. </p> <p>When Simon is not working, he spends quality time with his two active teenagers and roots for the Buffalo Bills to whom we say, "I'm sorry." [Laughter] He is an avid movie goer, and he believes his most important role is to be a great dad and to volunteer in serving the least, the last, and the lost in society. Please join me in welcoming Simon T. Bailey. [Applause] </p> <p>Simon T. Bailey: Good afternoon, and congratulations to the graduates. Do we have any night owls here? Any night owls? [Cheers] </p> <p>You know, it's so amazing, as I began to observe you walking in, I couldn't help but think about a number of years ago, my mom and dad loaded the family station wagon and drove me and my brother from Buffalo, New York down to Atlanta, Georgia where they dropped me off at Morehouse College. And at the end of my freshman year at Morehouse they called and said, "We don't have the money to send you back to Morehouse, nor do we have money to bring you back home to Buffalo, but we do love you." [Laughter] And how many realized the brother didn't quite feel the love. </p> <p>So I dropped out of Morehouse, moved into a drug infested community in the southwest part of Atlanta, Georgia. Only had a mattress on the floor, bright green beanbag from the '70s, a couple of milk crates turned over with a black and white TV on top of it with a hanger hanging out of the back of the TV with a piece of aluminum foil wrapped around the hanger. How many have the visual so far? [Laughter] Excuse me to all the English professors in the room, I wasn't "poor," I was "po'." That's two levels below. [Laughter] I was so broke, I walked past the bank and tripped the alarm. I mean it was just... [Laughter]... it was a sad situation. I know some of ya'll saying, "Bless his heart." [Laughter] </p> <p>I eventually did go back to school. It took me ten years to get my degree. And my parents said, "It took you ten years to finish your degree." I said, "Because you didn't pay. But I love you." [Laughter] And I remember so vividly, when I was going back to school, trying to finish my degree, I was making maybe a whopping $30,000 a year. And I would quit and start, and quit and start. And one day I realized that quitters never win, and winners never quit. And as I began to look at that, I really realized that the best hand that will feed you in any economy is the one at the end of your wrist. So I recognized I had to get up off my blessed assurance and make something happen. And though it took me ten years, that I was on public transportation, we got it done. </p> <p>And so as I look at you today, I know all about being a night owl. How many of ya'll feel me? [Cheers] See, here is what I've discovered: Success is inconvenient. Because if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. And I believe the level that you're willing to be inconvenienced is at the level you're ready to experience success. </p> <p>A number of years ago, when I was working here at the Mouse House, they sent me to Disneyland Paris to design a leadership program for a thousand leaders out of Barclays Bank out of London. And while I was there in Paris, Lion King had just come out. And if you remember the movie Lion King, there's a scene where Simba has lost his way, and his father, King Mufasa, appeared to him in a vision. And he says, [in deep voice] "Simba, remember who you are." I know some of ya'll just had a flashback right there. [Laughter] I'm working on my next side hustle. </p> <p>So I was there in Paris, and some people came up to me, and they're like, "Oh, my God, we enjoyed what you had to say." And I went back to my hotel room that night in Paris. And I asked myself three questions. And these three questions have really shaped the foundation of all of the work that I've done around the world, and the ten books that I've written. And question number one: What would I do if I knew I couldn't fail? Question number two: What would I do if no one paid me to do it? And question number three: What makes me come alive? I believe when you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Yes? And let me tell you why this is important. </p> <p>I've spent some time talking with the faculty and certainly the president of WGU, and this degree that you are achieving today has prepared you with the mindset, the skillset, and the will set to be relevant in this economy. Other colleges and universities, they want broadband results but they're using dial up methods. And what's interesting about WGU is you have faculty mentors that when you wanted to quit, came along side ya. How many are tracking with me? [Applause] And said, "Whatever it took you to get into WGU, we're gonna keep you in WGU. Do you need a lifeline?" </p> <p>And I think why that's so important in this economy is because WGU is not just in the business of education, but they're in the business of transformation. And transformation is all about sustainability. How do we ensure that we have men and women who not only go in the workforce and become all that they possibly can be? But let me say this to the female graduates today. All of the research says that businesses that have females in leadership roles in the organization have a net-net positive impact to the bottom line. [Cheers and applause] So ladies, you are equipped now to lead more than ever before because of how you have matriculated through this university. </p> <p>And men, I have not forgotten about you. But I want you to also recognize what's so powerful about WGU. It doesn't matter where you come from. It doesn't matter of your ethnicity, it doesn't matter of your background. WGU looks at the brilliance that is in you, and comes alongside you to say, "How can we help you be all that and a bag of chips?" </p> <p>So, when I think about today, you are sitting in the middle of a man's imagination. What is so powerful about Walt Disney World Resort is that 60 years ago Walt was in what they call in the country, a crop duster airplane, that flew over the 47 square miles of this property. And he, along with his associates, began to acquire the land to create Walt Disney World. They acquired it through a series of dummy companies. </p> <p>Walt passed away December 15th, 1966. And when Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, opened October 1st 1971, there was a gentleman on the stage with Walt's brother, Roy who turned to Roy and said, "It would've been great for Walt to see Walt Disney World." And Roy turned back to him and said, "He did see it." </p> <p>All of you today, you saw this day coming. And I submit to you that the imagination is the most powerful movie screen in the world because the future is created in the present. So you saw this day. And as you get ready to shift from this day what does SHIFT stand for? See How I Fit Tomorrow. When you shift from this day, you will take WGU with you in your heart because you are absolutely positively brilliant. Why? Because Simon says so. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Scott Pulsipher: Let's hear it one more time for Simon. Thank you so much. [Cheers and applause] Thank you for also living up to the power of your high expectations for yourself, and only being limited by that which you can imagine. It is so great to be among you. </p> <p>We now will have the opportunity to actually hear from two of our graduates. First we'll hear from Gussie Hopkins, who is receiving her Bachelor of Science in Business IT Management from Buford, Georgia. After her, we will hear from D'Lynn Linger, who is receiving her Bachelor of Arts Educational Studies from Flagler, Colorado. Gussie, welcome. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Gussie Hopkins: Good afternoon, graduates, friends, and family. My name is Gussie Hopkins, and I would like to speak to you today about your story, my story, and the why that drives them. </p> <p>Every graduate present here today has a story that illustrates what it took to become successful and finally graduate. Well, my story took 16 years. [Laughter] And I wouldn't change any aspect of it because every hurdle that I overcame, showed me just how strong these little short legs of mine are. Thanks, Mom. [Laughter] </p> <p>Through a glimpse of my story, hopefully you can see that we have some commonalities together in your story. Now, my degree journey started in 2002 when I graduated high school with academic and athletic scholarships. During my first semester, I found out that I would be blessed with our first son, Chris. So what this meant is that I would need to stop going to school because you gotta take care of your kid. That's kind of how it works. The law says so. [Laughter] </p> <p>So, soon after his birth, I decided, and I was determined that I was going to finish school. So I enrolled at a community college. So, several times a week, I would load my newborn in a carry on the front of me, a book bag on my back, and a diaper bag on my shoulder for a 90 minute ride in Chicago winter. Now, let that sink in, okay? Anyone who has ever lived in or been to the windy city of Chicago during winter knows that Old Man Winter can care less about your hopes, your dreams, or your aspirations. </p> <p>[Holler from audience member] </p> <p>Obviously they know Chicago. [Laughter] So, after some time I realized, well, I gotta pay the bills. Kid gotta eat. So I had to stop going to school because I had to work to provide for Chris. This saddened me of course because I had this goal and I had to put it on the back burner, but for a good reason. So, what I realized is that I had to keep going though. But what I researched was the Women's Institute of Policy Research found that only 28 percent of single mothers graduate in six years. I decided that wasn't gonna be me. I didn't care what it took, or how long it took 16 years [Ahem] to graduate, I was going to do that because I had to set an example for our son. </p> <p>Fast forward two years. The Lord decided to bless us with our second son, Caleb.</p> <p>[Holler from audience member]</p> <p>That was Caleb by the way. [Laughter] Though his birth was a blessing, we had some hard times that came during that time period. First thing first was we had not one, but two layoffs. How many know that no money coming in is a challenge? [Laughter] Number two, we had multiple health scares. We had surgeries, my dad got really sick, and just a lot of health things going on. </p> <p>Number three, we relocated to Georgia. That was expensive. Our home in Chicago was foreclosed on because we could no longer afford it. Lastly, I could not afford to go to the school. I didn't have money to go to college. But, worst of all, we experienced two losses: The loss of my father, and the loss of my cousin who was more like a sister, who was only 33 years old. Well, it seemed like we just could not get a break, right? </p> <p>Well, from outside looking in, one would look at our story and say, "Whoo, that's a lot of darkness, that's a lot of darkness." But guess what? Fortunately for our family, there was always an abundance of love and joy that outshined every ounce of darkness that was put in our path. </p> <p>Well, I'll give you a couple of examples. First and foremost, in 2014 I met and married my best friend, Bernardo. I love you. </p> <p>[Holler from audience member] </p> <p>That's Bernardo. [Laughter] My mother and I ended up developing an amazing relationship because we had to learn how to bond together a lot more than what we were doing before because my dad was the mediator. So, these situations were presented, but they forced us to come together and be a tighter family. Also, our sons are excellent students, and they are Boy Scouts working toward their Eagle ranks. [Applause] Go Scouts! We are a Scouting family. Once a week at least, twice on Sundays. [Laughter] </p> <p>I earned my certification in project management and I became gainfully employed, so eventually our finances were restored. Lastly, we bought a home in Georgia. So we set down, and we have now settled in Georgia and we absolutely </p> <p>[Holler from audience member] </p> <p>UGA fans, there it is, all right. [Laughter] But one thing I would say is that these experiences have taught me regardless of what's going on, you have to find the good in your situation. I challenge you to do the same. You'll smile more. </p> <p>Now, even though things were looking up, I was still determined to get my bachelor's degree by any means necessary. So in June of 2015, I started my search and I was looking for colleges. And because time is short, we have to work. And because you have other things going on in a schedule, I had to go to an online university. So in that search, I ended up narrowing it down to three colleges. Now, of those three colleges there were two factors that became important. I had already had a lot of life experiences and I had been in my field for a while. So I wanted something that would allow me to take my competencies that I had already, and apply them. WGU, checkmark, right? </p> <p>Also, I needed the flexibility where I could work at my own self pace, and not be penalized for it. WGU, checkmark. So with that being said, I chose WGU because everything I researched and reviewed, they had a very supportive staff which is absolutely important for you to be able to make it through that process. Thank you so much. [Cheers and applause] WGU's faculty and self paced environment allowed for me to have the structure that I needed. And it was instrumental in my ability to complete this chapter of my life. And for that, my family and I are forever thankful. </p> <p>Now, my program mentor, Miranda... sorry, but I love you. She must have been tired of me because there were so many different things going on, but yet she was kind, and she was patient. And she pulled together whatever resources that WGU had to offer in order to assist me. For example, she linked me with a course mentor, Bruce in finance. Bruce helped me a lot, okay? </p> <p>[Holler from audience member] </p> <p>Yeah, see? Somebody else struggled in finance, okay? He had as many one on one sessions that I needed until I finally passed finance. </p> <p>Now, this degree has absolutely unlocked some new potentials for me, and for that I'm absolutely thankful. So I'm currently a senior project manager back home in Georgia, and that came from the accomplishment of being able to tie in my certification with my degree and show not only am I competent, but I can handle your business and more. </p> <p>If I can leave you with anything today, it would be these three things: Number one, do not measure yourself against society's standards or their timelines. Obviously 16 years, I just said forget the timeline, just kind of threw it out. But because of that, it allowed me to stay focus on what was important to me, and that was my family. </p> <p>Number two, give yourself a break sometime or you'll run yourself into the ground literally. Number three, always, always, always remember your why. Why do you sacrifice? Why did you enroll into WGU in the first place? Why do you take the time and dedicate yourself to your goal, whatever that goal may be? That's the reason why you're here today. Congratulations and I wish you the best of luck. </p> <p>[Cheers and applause] </p> <p>D'Lynn Linger: Hello WGU graduates, I'm D'Lynn Linger, and we are WGU. [Cheers and applause] I've worked for more than 13 years as an English Language Learner Paraprofessional, and a College and Scholarship Advisor for Arickaree School District in rural Colorado. As an advisor, I help kids find their perfect college and the scholarship money to attend the school of their dreams, though myself, I had never obtained a college degree. </p> <p>I give a speech every year to my students explaining that everything in their lives good or bad, makes them who they are today. Every experience shapes them into the people that they will become, and the future is theirs for the taking. I tell them that fear becomes excuses, and excuses, they become failure. Never make excuses. Never say I can't, that I'm not smart enough, or I can't do it. It's too hard. </p> <p>One afternoon, while I was watching my 13 year old son, Bryce at his basketball game, two of my seniors came up to sit with me and to visit. And one young man asked me, "Miss D'Lynn, why don't you go back to college and get your degree?" And the first that came out of my mouth, you guessed it, an excuse. I said, "Well, boys, I'm 43 years old. I'm a single mom raising three boys on my own with a full time job. I have a cattle ranch that I can barely afloat. I could never do it. My time for that dream is past." The young man looked at me in the eyes and said, "Wow, I hear a lot of excuses Ms. D'Lynn. So what's the real reason?" Man, your own words sting the worst, don't they? At least he was listening to the speech I gave. Good job, honey. But that simple statement from that young man changed my future. </p> <p>How could I look at my students in the eye and tell them to follow their dreams, never make excuses, never say never if I couldn't do it myself? So as luck would have it, I had been looking into WGU for one of my students, and found out that it was a perfect fit for me. I contacted an enrollment counselor and the next day, I began the journey to never say never. </p> <p>The first term, it was going great. I had this. I had finished the term and 36 competency units. My goal to graduate in two years, it was right there on the horizon. I had this. My dream at being 43 years old to go to college, it was happening because of WGU. </p> <p>But then unfortunately, the bottom fell out. My health issues came back with a vengeance. I had already had one surgery, and was looking at several more over the next three to four months. That was the day that excuses almost ended everything. I was just a few days out from one of my second surgeries and I had also broken my arm at this time. It was the end of the term, I was waiting for an email to say that I had passed. But instead and I know we've all seen it I got the dreaded "needs revision." [Laughter] </p> <p>[Sigh] You hate that email, don't you? [Cheers and applause] Talk about ruin your day. But I was behind in my term, and time was slipping away. I wasn't going to pass by the end of my term. As I was reading the email, I looked out the window, and a large portion of my cows were in my front yard. [Sigh] It's like they are torn down the fence, and they were everywhere. It was the ultimate day that day. It was like, "All right, I've had enough of this." </p> <p>I take my 12 year old son outside and we're gathering cows and we're fixing the fence, and my mind was still reeling from that prospect of not being able to pass before the end of the term. The physical pain from my recent surgery, multiplied by the pain of my broken arm, and watching my son struggle to help me keep our place together was too much. Everything was falling apart. I couldn't do this anymore. I couldn't do it. I wanted to give up on everything; on college, on my ranch, and worst of all, on myself. </p> <p>But that moment God puts people in your life for a reason. And at that moment, my phone started to ring, and it was my mentor, Bree. Poor Bree, she did not know what she was getting into when she got that call. She had no idea. I answered the call. I was crying, my son was crying, my cows were crying behind me. And the first thing that comes out of Bree's mouth was, "Uh, D'Lynn, are those cows in the background?" [Laughter] I'm like, "I'm in the middle of a pasture, welcome to my life." And it was. </p> <p>But the thing was is that I told her everything that was going on. She kept saying that it was going to be okay. "Everything's going to be okay." She kept saying that, "We're not going to let you fail. We're going to be there for you. We're going to get you through this." And that's what those mentors do for us, the course instructors, our program mentors, everyone. They're the ones that are pushing us, and they're going to help us get us through. And they're the ones that are going to pick us up and say, "No excuses, you've got this." </p> <p>But, the best words I will have to say, came from my son at that simple moment. He just looked at me, and said, "Mom, it's okay. We can do this." And we did. [Cheers and applause] I met my goal of graduating in little over two years. Two years and 15 days from the day I made that call. </p> <p>But I have learned one thing. I didn't just get my degree. I learned that all of us, we are stronger than we ever thought that we could be. That my family and my peeps will always have my back. But one thing I want to say is that no excuses will ever be bigger than our dreams. And I can now honestly say, and look at my students in the eye and say, "If you follow your dreams, believe in yourself, and never make excuses, you can accomplish anything." So congratulations WGU graduates of 2019, you are amazing! [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Scott Pulsipher: What wonderful stories from our graduates, very, very inspiring. It is truly a remarkable thing to think about the design of the faculty model that is part of WGU. One of the more heart warming experiences that I had in recent years was in fact when the words came back from the hurricanes that kind of flowed through the southern part of the states last year. And over 11,000 of our students were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, or Hurricane Irma. </p> <p>But just to understand the relationship that our students have with their program mentors, it was noticeable. That the first person that they called at WGU was not a student support center, it was not someone on the phone side, or the phone banks or anything else. You called your mentor. And that mentor was there to help you figure out how you fit your studies into what just happened to your life. </p> <p>And it's truly amazing to know that we have faculty who fundamentally believe our why, that they believe in changing the lives of individuals and families. They believe in your inherent worth, and we're so grateful for the work that they do. Let's give a round of applause to every single one of your mentors. [Applause] </p> <p>I also don't think I would ever expect a mentor of ours to hear that kind of phrase come through the phone when their student says, like D'Lynn said that "half of my cows are in my front yard." So I'm pretty certain that even if I weren't going to college or anything else, I couldn't keep a cattle ranch afloat. So D'Lynn, congratulations to you as well in seeing and persevering through those challenges. </p> <p>We will now recognize each of our bachelor's degree graduates. So would the candidates for bachelor's degrees, post baccalaureate degrees, and teacher preparation endorsements please rise, including those of you watching this by webcast wherever you may be. Go ahead and stand up all you graduates. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Upon the favorable recommendation of our faculty, and the authority vested in me, by the board of trustees, and the member governors of Western Governors University, I hereby confer upon you the bachelor's degree or endorsement you have earned to include the Bachelor of Arts, the Bachelor of Science, or the Post Baccalaureate Teacher Preparation Endorsement, with all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. Congratulations. You may now move the tassel from the right to the left side of your mortarboard. Congratulations again on this important milestone. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Please be seated for the moment. The following are the leaders from each of our colleges who will now present the diplomas to our graduates: Bruce Stetar, Academic Programs Director, College of Business; Daren Upham, Academic Operations Vice President, College of Health Professions; Elke Leeds, Academic Vice President, College of Information Technology; and Deborah Eldridge, Academic Vice President Teachers College. Bruce. </p> <p>[Reading of Graduates] </p> <p>Scott Pulsipher: Everyone, let's hear it one more time for our graduates, congratulations everyone. [Applause] All of us at WGU are so very proud of you, and we welcome you into our community of alumni, now numbering over 130,000. </p> <p>For many of you, earning your diploma is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. The academic degree you have earned at WGU will open doors for you, and allow you to explore new opportunities. But it's important to remember that commencement is not the end, it represents a new beginning. I encourage you to explore your dreams, dare to discover, and follow your passions. </p> <p>Whatever you choose to do, do it as well as you possibly can, and great things will follow. Learning is a lifelong journey and one that is now a habit of your heart and mind. I urge you as you continue your journey to reach out to others in pursuit of their dreams, identify meaningful ways to contribute to your communities, and to your neighborhoods. Help us find our way as a united country to a brighter pathway for our children, and our children's children. Congratulations again. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Now, as we like to do as part of our ceremony, that we want to make sure that everyone that is part of your extended friends and family that they have an opportunity to celebrate with you. So if you could, find that phone in your pocket, take it out, and let's take a selfie. I'm going to invite Simon up here to get our photo with all of you in the background. And as we do so, and you guys take your selfies, we ask you to share it on social platforms and make sure you tag it with WGUGrad. Again, tag it with WGUGrad. Okay. </p> <p>Awesome! Okay. There you go, great job everyone. Now remember, use that photo and tag yourself and share all the other photos that you're taking today on all of the platforms you may use and just share this wonderful moment with friends and family and hashtag it, WGUGrad. </p> <p>For those of you, just as a point of logistics, for those of you who are parked at Typhoon Lagoon, there will be shuttles immediately right outside the Veracruz Hall here, and also directly in front of the Coronado Ballroom to take you back to your cars. This now concludes our commencement ceremony. Please remain seated until our graduates have filed out. Thank you and have a great evening. </p> <p>[Cheers and applause]</p>
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