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WGU Master's Ceremony, September 2018
WGU Master's Ceremony, September 2018
Western Governors University
<p>Order of Events: Processional; National Anthem sang by Destiny Coleman; Welcome and Opening Remarks from WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Commencement Address delivered by the President of the American Council on Education and former Under Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Dr. Ted Mitchell; Graduate Speakers are Jacqueline Becerra and Karla Ortiz Flores; Conferral of Degrees and Closing by President Pulsipher; Recessional.</p> <p>September 15, 2018 WGU Regional Commencement at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. This is a recording of the Master's Ceremony.</p> <p>Transcription of video (note transcription begins around the 1:04:00 mark):</p> <p>[Processional and anthem] </p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: Thank you. Please take your seats. We'd like to thank Destiny Coleman, from Pataskala, Ohio, who is graduating with her Masters of Science degree in Management and Leadership for performing our national anthem. Thank you Destiny. [Applause] </p> <p>Good afternoon, everyone. It is my honor to convene the 2018 WGU Commencement in Washington, D.C. On behalf of the entire university, we welcome our honored graduates, and congratulate you on completing one of life's great achievements. We also congratulate you on braving the storm. Our thoughts are today, and our prayers are with those who are still being impacted by Hurricane Florence. And please stay safe. </p> <p>We'd like to recognize the members of the College of Health Professions National Advisory Council who are also here with us. Could we have them please stand and be recognized? I think they're down here. [applause] 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 commencement via our live webcast. </p> <p>Standing here, I see the many family and friends of our graduates. It is likely that today would not have been possible without them at your side. In fact, there are more than 4,000 guests attending today's ceremonies and many more watching online to support and celebrate you. You are a much loved crowd. Would all of you, the friends and family of our graduates please stand up. [Applause] Thank you and we appreciate so much all that you have done for your family members and our graduates. </p> <p>At WGU, we often have family members graduating together. Could we please have these family members stand and be recognized? [applause] What a special occasion it is to see families share this moment together. </p> <p>WGU is also honored to be recognized year after year as a military friendly university. We would like to recognize military members who are graduating. Would the graduates who are active duty, reservists and veterans please stand and be recognized? [Applause] From the depth of our hearts, we thank you for your service. </p> <p>And last, but not least, if you our students and alumni, are the lifeblood of this institution then our faculty and staff are its heart. With you today are many of WGU's faculty mentors and employees. If you have been a beneficiary of the time and dedication that they've put into their work, please put your hands together and recognize one last time and give them a round of applause. [Applause] </p> <p>Twenty one years ago, WGU was officially founded. Nineteen years ago, WGU enrolled its first student. The university now has more than 119,000 graduates. Since the beginning of the year, WGU has awarded more than 20,000 degrees. Today we recognize the achievements of nearly 750 graduates who are attending the ceremonies here in Washington, D.C. Among these there are 311 individuals receiving their bachelor's degrees, and 432 receiving their master's degrees. You represent 45 states, the District of Colombia, Canada, and military installations overseas. </p> <p>Specific to the DMV, nine graduates are from Washington, D.C., 99 are from Maryland, and 142 are from Virginia. Thank you for being here. Neighboring West Virginia is also represented today with eight graduates. Thank you for being here. It is our privilege to be among all of you. It is also our privilege to be among those who support you. </p> <p>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. We extend a special congratulations to you. [Applause] It's actually well-known that the children of a college graduate are ten times more likely to also attend college and graduate, so congratulations on your achievement. </p> <p>Your average age is 39. The youngest is 19, and the oldest is 86. [Cheers and applause] Ninety two percent of you are over the age of 27, and among you receiving your master's degree, on average, you completed your degree in one year and ten months. Congratulations. [Applause] </p> <p>Rituals and ceremonies play an important part in our lives. They separate extraordinary moments from the daily flow, moments that have special meaning and should always be remembered. It is an inspiring and uplifting moment to look out upon you and consider your achievement despite your many priorities and challenges that you had to juggle to attain it. You are the reason that we have gathered here. Today's commencement ritual is an emphatic punctuation that you, our graduates, have set and accomplished a significant goal and are now moving to a new stage in your life. </p> <p>Since you join the less than nine percent of adults in the U.S. who have earned a master's degree, much will be expected of you. You will take on leadership roles and be an example to many in your businesses and your communities. It has been said that the door of history swings on small hinges. You have made the choice and put forth the effort to obtain a milestone that will change the course of your own personal history. You have set an expectation for yourself, your families, and your loved ones. You have lifted your gaze and aspired to greater things. Never forget the privileges and responsibilities of your education. And finally, a sincere thank you for letting all of us at WGU be a part of your journey. We are proud of you, and know that greater things await you. Congratulations. [Applause] </p> <p>I'm pleased to introduce Dr. Ted Mitchell, our commencement speaker today. Ted Mitchell is the president of the American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for America's colleges and universities. Prior to coming to ACE, Ted was the Undersecretary of the United States Department of Education, responsible for all post secondary, and adult education policy and programs as well as the $1.3 trillion federal student aid portfolio. </p> <p>Prior to his federal service, Mitchell was the CEO of the New Schools Venture Fund, a national investor in education innovation. He has served as well as president of the California State Board of Education, president of Occidental College, and in a variety of leadership roles at UCLA, including Vice Chancellor. Ted was deputy to the president and to the provost at Stanford University, and he began his career as a professor at Dartmouth College, where he also served as chair of the Department of Education. Please welcome Dr. Ted Mitchell. [Applause] </p> <p>Dr. Ted Mitchell: Thank you, President Pulsipher. Members of the board of trustees, distinguished guests, faculty, students, friends, family, it's great to be here. It's wonderful to be celebrating this milestone with you. Scott, I want to take a moment to thank you personally for inviting me here today, and it's an honor to share the stage with you as well. Your leadership of WGU has been truly outstanding. You have led WGU to become a real force in the lives of hundreds of thousands of learners, and in our field. You took the helm of an institution that was already thriving, and pushed the accelerator down, and built on its many strengths to make it a beacon for American higher education. </p> <p>Unlike most of the presidents I spend my days with, you're not a "tweedy academic." I think some would say that you're a "non traditional" choice. But that's the point. Like WGU itself, and like today's graduates, you're breaking the mold, and setting a course that meets the needs of today's learners and tomorrow's economy through technology-powered and people-inspired innovation that is laser focused on student success. And that's exactly what higher education needs right now. Thank you for your example. [applause] </p> <p>So could we do one more round of applause for the family and friends and faculty? [Applause] Higher education is a team sport, and this is a great, great team. </p> <p>And now, to the guests of honor. If I have my math right, over 40 years in higher education, I've listened to more than a hundred graduation speeches. So I really feel your pain and I promise to follow Franklin Roosevelt's sage advice to "be sincere, be brief, and be seated." </p> <p>So I have three things. First, congratulations. Your achievements are impressive collectively, as well as individually. The size of this graduating class alone is an indication that something very special is going on at WGU. It's not every place that needs to divide its ceremony in two to celebrate all of its graduates. Individually, you have made sacrifices, whether it's staying up late after putting the kids to bed, finding time after a long workday to put in just a few more hours at your computer. Indeed, you've all sacrificed to be here today and you made it. Please give yourselves a round of applause. [Applause] </p> <p>Scott talked about some of the demographic statistics of this class. In addition to what Scott mentioned, 90 percent of you work full or part time. How many of you are parents yourselves? There you go. It takes a minute or two during the day. And we've already celebrated the returning veterans and active duty service members, and the 39 percent of you who are the first in your families to go to college. You know, I think, that the research suggests that all of these are risk factors against successful completion of a degree. Yet, as Scott mentioned, the average time to completion for your graduate degrees was less than two years, far less than in traditional programs, serving what we used to think of as traditional students. </p> <p>It's one thing to talk about the numbers, but behind those numbers are your stories, your individual journeys. Like that of Destiny Coleman, our outstanding national anthem singer this morning. Not only is she, as we know, a gifted performer, Destiny has thrived at her job with Opera Columbus in Ohio, where she is the Director of Education in Artistic Administration. </p> <p>She enrolled at WGU with a goal of advancing her career and found that her courses have helped her become a better strategic planner and a more effective leader. She was attracted to WGU because of its affordability and its unique learning model. She says she was – see, people are crying already, and I haven't even gotten through the first one. [laughter] She said – don't worry, don't worry, I'm getting there. She says she was able to move at her own pace, taking one course at a time, so she could balance her work with her studies. </p> <p>Also here today is Betty [Dornoval?],who is getting a Master's of Science in Nursing. Betty made the decision to obtain her Master's degree just two years after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. And as she juggled the responsibilities of her own health care, caring for a special needs child, and working full-time, she nonetheless felt that furthering her education was a goal worth pursuing. Now, working as a correctional nurse, Betty is able to use her newly-acquired skills in nursing informatics to lead her team, and finds herself even more effective in that role. Congratulations to both of you, and through your stories, congratulations to this class. [applause]</p> <p>Second, I want to thank you. By taking on the challenges you have, and by surmounting them, you are already making changes in your life that will have an impact. Your degree will have an impact on your lives like earnings, the opportunities for more and better career choices, and statistically, you will improve your health and sense of wellbeing. But you'll have an impact in other ways as well. </p> <p>President Pulsipher talked about the increased likelihood in families with college graduates, of successive generations going on to college. That's true. It's important. It's a trajectory changer for whole families, and whole networks of people. Sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews will all be inspired by your example. </p> <p>I remember well, watching as my father balanced work and family to gain his Master's degree while I was in elementary school. Those were the days when distance education meant long trips in the family station wagon and assignments being mailed to a distant campus. But even now, thinking back, I know how important watching him struggle and succeed was, to me, in shaping the way that I thought about my own education, and later, in fact, about how I think about education policy. but that's a story for another day. </p> <p>You will also expand the impact that you have on your workplace, whether that's a hospital, a school, a business, or an IT department. The knowledge you've acquired will make those better organizations not just because of what you do there, but how you do it. You will inspire those who work with you, and for you, to continue their own educational journey. Maybe right here at WGU. </p> <p>And you will have an impact on your communities. We know from research that individuals with advanced degrees are not only called on, to lead, but take on leadership roles in their communities, and volunteer in non profit organizations, and in the day to day interactions that define who we are as an inclusive and generous democracy. </p> <p>So, for all of these things, I want to thank you. But I want to thank you and WGU for one more thing: Thank you for showing us the future. A moment ago I compared you with so called traditional students. Scott went through the demographics of this class. Well, I think the formulation of tradition students is outmoded and outdated. In addition to the characteristics of your class, let me tell you a little bit about the characteristics of college students in America generally. Guess what, they look a lot like you. </p> <p>The average age of a college student is between 26 and 28. 1 and 5 is over 30. More than half are financially independent of their parents, 1 is 4 is caring for at least one child or an aging adult. The majority work full-time or part time. Many stop out for periods of time while finishing their degree. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in aggregate, in aggregate, 73 percent of college students in America today, fall into one or more of those categories. And described by one or more of those characteristics. </p> <p>So I don't think that we have a traditional college student anymore. We have a new normal college student, and you are that new normal college student, and you are the future of higher education in this country. [applause]</p> <p>Unfortunately too much of our higher educational system is still organized around the notion that a college student is an 18 year old who gets dropped off in the family minivan at Leafy State University, moves into the dorm, and Leaves four years later with a diploma and an education that somehow will suffice for a lifetime. One of the things that makes your journeys so important, and your stories so relevant is that you have challenged this old system. You have prevailed against its imperfections, and you have partnered with an institution that just plain sees the world differently, sees the world through the lens of the new normal student and has built programs and systems that reach where you are, on your own terms, at your own pace, with rigor, with support, and flexibility. </p> <p>WGU is unique because it's designed to remove so many of the barriers students face at other institutions. WGU offers students flexibility to learn at your own pace. WGU has pioneered a unique and powerful faculty model that gives you access to the right support from the right person, at the right time. And WGU has created a pricing model that enables you to complete your coursework in a way that doesn't break the bank. WGU has built a credentials focused curriculum that focuses on learning outcomes rather than class time. And WGU students enjoy invaluable resources that put them on the road to success including access to state of the art distance learning systems, advanced curriculum models or that truly dedicated student-focused faculty. And it's working. </p> <p>WGU boasts a graduation rate 11 percent higher than other institutions serving adult learners. The levels of student graduate and employer satisfaction regularly outpaced the national average. Student debt levels have been steadily decreasing. Yup, decreasing, at WGU. [Applause] And employment outcomes for graduates are at 96 percent. [applause]</p> <p>At ACE, we're trying to do our part to encourage a climate where transformative models like WGU can thrive and where every student in this student has access not just to higher education, but to quality higher education that will change their lives and the life of the nation. As a country, we can do more to support innovative practices and innovative institutions. We can do more to increase access, affordability, and completion across the nation, particularly for students who have not been well-served by the old system.</p> <p>New normal students, folks from low income backgrounds, students of color, first generation students, and Americans from rural communities where education resources are sparse these are populations we must serve if we are to live up to our highest ideals. But that's the WGU story, and that is your story. I hope that my colleagues across the road in D.C. will take note of what you and WGU have accomplished together. </p> <p>Third, and finally, I want to give you a last homework assignment. It goes like this: Now is your time to take what you've learned and make us all better. Remember the obstacles you've overcome to get here, and help others overcome theirs. Mentor others. Speak out for causes you believe in. Your success is a powerful example and a powerful tool of what's possible for all of us. You're transforming yourselves, your families, and your communities. You are the ones that are now setting the pace. You are the ones who will go back to your loved ones, your jobs, and be the face of success in America. </p> <p>You are what America was designed to do and to celebrate. I am hopeful for our collective future because of you, of what you have done, and what you will do. The truth is, everything you've done to get here today is noteworthy. But what you will continue to do from this day forward is what's going to change all of us for the better. Thank you, good luck, and congratulations. [Applause] </p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: Thank you, Ted. And now we have the privilege of hearing from two graduates. They are Jacqueline Becerra, from San Antonio, Texas, who is receiving her Master's in Nursing Leadership and Management. And Karla Ortiz Flores from Chicago, Illinois, who is receiving her Master's in Management and Leadership. Please join me in welcoming first to the lectern, Jacqueline. [Applause] </p> <p>Jacqueline Becerra: Wow. I just want you to turn around and tell your neighbor, you look amazing today. [Chuckles] </p> <p>Wow, you know, it is an honor today, and I can confirm that we all share something in common we did it, and quitting was not an option, right? [Applause] So today, when our names are recognized and day becomes night, we have just created history. What an awesome place to create history today, right? </p> <p>And like an open book, we are ready to move on to the next chapter of our professions. And so first and foremost, I want to thank God for making this happen. I want to thank my husband for being the backbone of my success, and I want to thank my family and friends that are here with me today to support and celebrate the accomplishment of today. Thank you. And I also want to thank you WGU for making it happen, right? I mean they are such an organized professional organization, and I really appreciate that from them. Amen. </p> <p>I am honored here to share with you my personal life and my experience. I come from a single parent home, and in my tradition, women were to stay home. My mom struggled by being physically abused by my father. And mom's family persecuted her for that and said, "You need to stay with him. That's the way it is. You just got to be obedient to him." And so I also remember as a young girl sleeping in my grandmother's house, and feeling the cold, wooden I would sleep on the wooden floors and I would feel the cold air just coming up from the floor of outside of the house. And we had no options, so that was the choice that we had to live there and live through it because it was better than living out on the streets. </p> <p>I watched my mom struggle two jobs just to keep my brother and I clothed, fed, and sheltered. And so that was really hard for me. Not enough food, not enough money for school clothes, and moving home to home, I can tell you really what poverty looks like, feels like, and tastes like. And so, my brother and I would even walk around the streets during the summer days and we would look for change on the floors and in the vending machines just to look for something to eat. You know, because my mom had to work. And so, in the summers, we had nothing to eat. So we would look for money, spare change, just to see what we can find enough to eat. </p> <p>And so, I made a decision though that you know, I really never understand why these things happen to me as a child, but I know that it made me a stronger person, the person that I am today. And so, I made a decision a long time ago, not to let the negative experiences of life hold me back from who I am called to be. [Applause] Thank you. </p> <p>I believe that life's circumstances should not limit one's thinking or making a difference in others' lives. I truly believe everyone has a story here today, whether it's negative or whether it's positive, whether it's weak, or whether it's strong. But it's all up to the person to decide how they're going to let it affect their life. And I, myself had moments of wanting to quit, but I knew it was not an option. It was hard, but quitting was not an option. It was frustrating. I had frustrating nights, but quitting was not an option. </p> <p>But, because I did not choose to quit, I became passionate about the health care and non profit organizations to make a difference in people that are in need. And in my professional life as a nurse, I care for my patients, my co workers, my employees, my colleagues with fervent and equal compassionate care and love. And so I have been a nurse for 17 years. For four years I have been in a leadership role with Tenet Healthcare Corporation. And I'm grateful that Tenet Healthcare Corporation saw leadership capacity in me that they were willing to say that out of a 130,000 employees, I was the 20th employee that they selected to invest into my bachelor's and master's degree. [Applause] </p> <p>Earning my degree at WGU has given me a steppingstone to continue into the administrative world of health care today. The courses at WGU have expanded my knowledge and understanding in terms of administration portion of my career. In addition to my career, I needed to be involved in my community and so for the last 12 years, my husband and I have worked with our organization called Hope and Life Centers. We have 155 centers worldwide. And these centers are where we coordinate food distribution and clothing distribution as well as teaching them sustainability in other foreign countries. </p> <p>In these centers, the shelters that we provide are for victims of sex trafficking, starting from the ages of six all the way up. We rescue countless children. You hear so many stories about how they were rescued and how they were brought to the center. The center is an oasis of love, shelter, education, nutrition, and medical care. We also serve the organization by coaching and mentoring and empowering and providing emotional support for these children and young adults. [Applause] </p> <p>We know the value of a college degree and our main focus is to create scholarship opportunities to ensure that the children have access for higher education. I am blessed, I am so blessed that I am now in a position where I can positively impact someone else's life, someone that is in need, someone that needs the coaching, someone that needs the mentoring. I will also continue to push forward in my career and my humanitarian efforts. I will help lead the way for those in need and above all, I will continue to become a better person for myself, for my family, and my community. Thank you again. [Applause] </p> <p>Karla Ortiz Flores: So just a head's up, I'm Puerto Rican, so I talk with my hands. Someone might be catching a microphone here today, so, just letting you know. [Laughter] Just kidding, I'm short, I can't reach. [Laughter] </p> <p>I chose September's commencement because it marks a year after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, a very difficult time for me and my family. I remember trying to keep up with my coursework while refreshing [inaudible], which is a new site in Puerto Rico, at least every five minutes. Whenever I saw a notification of a river overflowing or a mudslide in the mountains, I would grab my phone, and once more, try to get ahold of my family. </p> <p>For three weeks I did not hear from them. And for three weeks I worked tirelessly through my organization, Catholic Extension, to respond to the humanitarian crisis that devastated my home. You see, I left my home ten years ago in the pursuit of opportunities for myself because my parents grew up in [inaudible], and they never had it. I was part of the thousands of young adults that continued to leave Puerto Rico in the pursuit of a better life. </p> <p>I was the only one from my family to leave, and let me tell you, it has been difficult. Everything that I've done I've had to build from scratch. Every day I remind myself of how despite the challenges and struggles I face, I've had the privilege of doing something that not many people that look like me have been able to do, and that is getting an education. Statistics say that only 15 percent of Hispanics are able to complete their college degree. I tell you this because for people like me, every day can seem like a series of unfortunate events. </p> <p>Many of us can't afford it. Or our families need us to help them put food on the table. Or perhaps we never thought that our dreams were valid because of where we came from. I spent many years measuring my worth because of my ethnicity. It wasn't until I heard a phrase from Father Jack Wahl, the president of Catholic Extension, when he said, "You are more than your circumstances," that I began to reclaim my hopes for a better future, not just for me, but for those at the margins of society. </p> <p>WGU has shown me the secret to success. Being committed to the belief that you can change anything in your life, regardless of how unattainable you may think that it is. I can safely say that throughout my degree, I gave my mentor Greg Nelson plenty of reasons as to why I didn't pick up that weekly call. [Laughter] One being falling off the grid for weeks because I had to go to Puerto Rico to distribute emergency funding, and it telecommunication towers were still not working. Or because I was trying to recover from 16 hour workdays where I was coordinating aid efforts for Puerto Rico while I was still waiting to hear from my family for the first time. Or the time that I had to drop everything that I was doing to go buy gallons of water and really anything that was battery operated, so I could ship it to my family. </p> <p>When I finally received an email from my mom saying, "Our home is destroyed, but we are alive," I felt like I could once again take a call from my mentor. Expecting to be yelled at, I hesitantly responded to my weekly call. And then it happened, I realized where WGU shines as an institution beyond its academic richness. My mentor told me, "It's okay, I believe in you, you will be okay. You have time to catch up." Granted, I had three days. But he was right. [Laughter] I did catch up. </p> <p>I learned that a mentor was not just a title of a person that called you every week to check on your progress, but it was an actual role. Amidst the darkness that my family faced throughout those seven months without electricity, WGU was a light. Reminding me that I've come too far to let anything get in the way, yes, including a hurricane. [Applause] </p> <p>My education at WGU has reshaped how I view leadership. I am better equipped to be an agent of positive change. And for someone who manages a national leadership initiative, that's important. WGU made learning actionable, and I feel like I have new tools to create a more profound impact. My graduate degree is the tangible evidence of my persistence, my determination, and my resilience. I am no longer defined by what I'm not. </p> <p>If you asked me what doors this degree has happened I would say too many to count. But right now my next step is to sit at the table because it's at the table where the decisions are being made. Decisions that can uplift, and empower communities that are in need of dedicated and committed leadership. So I'm grabbing my WGU diploma with one hand when I get it and bringing my own chair with the other, and I'm sitting down at that table. [Applause] </p> <p>I am opening doors to those that have been knocking, that need to hear "Que se se puede" that yes, it can be done. Those are the doors that matter to me. That's the WGU difference, and you're all part of it. Thank you. [Applause]</p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: Thank you to Jacqueline and Karla. that was truly wonderful. I suspect that you may know this already from your faculty mentors with whom you've engaged, but if you haven't experienced it, let me just express to you how much all of us at WGU have a deep empathy and incredible admiration for the difficult challenges that many of you have had to overcome, as well as the very difficult choices that many of you have had to make to pursue a better life. And we are grateful that you've allowed us to be a part of it. Jacqueline, thank you for reminding us all that quitting is not an option and not letting the negative experiences define us. At the same time, we love the message, Karla, that you shared to be an agent of positive change. That is the call that each of us aspire to stand up for. </p> <p>We will now take the opportunity to recognize each of our Master's degree graduates. Would the candidates for Master's degrees please rise, including those of you watching this by webcast wherever you may be. [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 confirm upon you the Master's degree you have earned to include the Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, Master of Science, with all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. Congratulations and welcome to the community of learned professionals. [Applause] [cheers] </p> <p>Our Master's graduates wear a hood bearing the color of their discipline. The following are the leaders from each of our colleges who will now present the diplomas to our graduates. Dr. Rashmi Prasad, Academic Vice President, College of Business; Dr. Jan Jones-Schenk, Academic Vice President, College of Health Professions; John Balderree, Vice President Academic Operations, College of Information Technology; and Dr. Deb Eldredge, Academic Vice President, Teacher's College. At this point you can take a seat while I invite Dr. Rashmi Prasad to the lectern. </p> <p>Dr. Rashmi Prasad: Will the graduates from the College of Business, starting with the first row, please come forward at the direction of the marshals to be recognized individually. </p> <p>[Reading of names] </p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: Let's hear it one more time for our graduates. [Applause] [cheers] All of us at WGU are so very proud of you. And we welcome you into our community now of alumni, who are 119,000 strong. I want to take a moment just to share with you some wonderful words that I noted from a recent movie that I watched. Many of you may know Mr. Rogers. and so I want to share with you just a quote from that he offered, and just to take this opportunity to do this, what he offered. </p> <p>So he said, "From the time you are very little, you've had people who have smiled you into smiling, people who have talked to you into talking, sung you into singing, loved you into loving. Let's just take some time to think of those extra special people. Some of them may be right here. Some may be far away. Some may even be in heaven. No matter where they are, deep down you know they have always wanted what is best for you. They have always cared for you beyond measure, and encouraged you to be true to the best within you." </p> <p>While each of us at times may experience uncertainty, trial, disruption, and the resulting stress and even now sometimes the whole world may seem like it's in commotion, and I offer you the inspiration of Mr. Rogers' mother when she said, "When you encounter something scary, always look for the people who are helping. You will always find someone who is trying to help." </p> <p>May we follow their example and always find the positive. Seek to understand before being understood. Work to mend rather than tear down. Help others to feel and realize their inherent worth. Uplift and inspire them. Invite and encourage them to be a better version of themselves. Love them and love will be returned. </p> <p>As this movie concludes, Won't You Be My Neighbor, it says this: "It is not hard to answer the question what would Mr. Rogers do? The most important question is: What will you do?" For many of you, earning your diploma is the fulfillment of a life long goal. 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 and whatever you choose to do, do it as well as you possibly can, and great things will follow. </p> <p>Learning is a life long journey and one that is now a habit of both your mind and your heart. I urge you, as you continue on your journey, to reach out to others, identify meaningful ways to contribute to your communities and your neighbors, and help us find our way as a united country, to a brighter pathway for our children, and our children's children. </p> <p>Now let's take one last moment and celebrate consistent with the time in which we live in, with a selfie. [Chuckles] So I want to invite Dr. Ted Mitchell up here with me, while all of you get out your phone – I know it's in your pocket, I've seen a few of them. And so we're going to take a selfie from up here with all of you in the background. Okay. All right! Did you get that? [Applause] [cheers] </p> <p>So make sure you take that photo that you've taken, and share it on social media with your friends, family, loved ones, wherever they may be. And as you do so, please remember to use the hashtag, WGUGrad. This now concludes our commencement ceremony. [Applause] [cheers] This now concludes our commencement ceremony. And please remain seated until our graduates have filed out. Thank you. </p>
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