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Commencement Address

Marie V. McDemmond, Ph.D.

Good afternoon. I am honored to be Susquehanna University's 2010 Commencement speaker. As I prepared my remarks for this momentous day, I thought about what would be the perfect words I could say. What wisdom could I impart to let you know how wonderful you are, how well prepared you have become, and how proud the Susquehanna family is of you. In the middle of all that brainstorming I stopped, and thought of what I would want to hear if I were you—you who are about to begin another wonderful and challenging adventure in your life.

One important thing I would want to share with you is to be thankful always to those who supported you. To the parents and relatives in the audience and elsewhere you owe a special thanks. During the past four or more years your family has stood as a beacon whose light has shone you the way to be successful. Your family has been a shoulder for you to lean on, an ear that listened to your concerns, and someone for you to rejoice with, especially today. Your family has sacrificed their time, energy and financial resources to make your graduation day a reality. You have persevered because of them and them you owe great gratitude.

Now that you have graduated, what does it mean to be educated and prepared for the future? If you believe like me, that education is the great equalizer, then you will be on par with the millions of college graduates, not only in the United States, but around the globe. As Chairman of the Lumina Foundation for Education, we work and focus a great deal of our energy and resources in making sure the United States remains competitive among the world's developed countries in college and credentials' attainment. The economic conditions of our country today as well as our national security, present tremendous challenges for us to remain first in the world for the benefit of our citizens. This is why, as you cross the stage today, the knowledge you have obtained and your future educational credentials, will mean that you will not only be able to contribute to your family and society, but to our world as a whole.

Your emphasis should be on giving back, not only to our country but to your communities. The teacher in second grade, the middle school principal, the business woman down the street may have served as role models and mentors for you as you focused on obtaining a college degree. Coming to Susquehanna University has opened another door for you to continue your education at a nationally recognized liberal arts institution that focuses on preparing students "for achievement, leadership, and service in a diverse and interconnected world." Susquehanna, in its over 150 years of existence, has stayed current and focused not only a quality academic preparation but in building in its students an understanding of the "global opportunities" through study away and service learning.

As you persevered, as you succeeded, remember your success did not come all on your own. You had a role model, a mentor, some or many who guided you - who served as the beacon and sheltered you from the cold. Do that for someone else. Be dedicated to assisting your community in thriving.

To the graduates—as you sit here—you are experiencing a wide range of emotions—from excitement to exhaustion, especially since exams just ended and this is the culmination of your many years of hard work. You are leaving here to go into the world of work or to continue your education or to take time off and reevaluate your future. Like those who have come to witness this day, I, too, am so very proud of you. You have the ability to overcome any obstacles that entered your path. No matter what boulder fell from the mountain, you went around it, climbed over it or crushed it beneath your feet.


  • You endured rigorous studies.... Conquered high mathematical equations.... And dissected those smelly frogs.
  • You read mountains of books from textbooks to the greatest of world literature.
  • You transformed reams and reams of paper into essays, reports and exams. You were resilient when the grade you received wasn't what you wanted, and you were persistent. You modified your study strategy with each test to do even better.
  • You engaged in countless cramming sessions—studying way past midnight and sometimes even to within seconds before the exam.
  • Many of you worked to earn the resources needed to pay for tuition, books and fees.
  • You withstood rain, snow and cars that broke down and relationships breaking-up and maybe some survived tragedies.

Regardless of the circumstances, you who sit before me and are receiving your degrees today never faltered—you endured and you succeeded.

All those experiences were the building blocks of your character. You can feel confident that your determination and discipline will pay off as you are ready to embrace a new chapter in your life.

You have every reason to look forward to moving up the ladder. You've paid your dues and inevitably you will reap the benefits of your hard work. You will become gainfully employed and move up one career ladder after another.

But I want you to always keep your eye focused on the greater purposes of your education. Here at Susquehanna, you have become a well-rounded, educated person. You have been able to enrich your minds, enhance your intellectual capabilities and expand possibilities. This great university has shown you that all is possible—that your dreams can indeed become reality.

The purpose of education was to ignite your fires of intellectual curiosity, social commitment and dedication to your continued educational development. You must remain cognizant and never forget from where you have come, and to whom you owe your largest existence, and continue to give back to mankind.

Staying grounded as you succeed is essential. Remember it is not what we take, but what we give, that makes us truly rich. As General Colin Powell states "There are no secrets to success. Don't waste time looking for them. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence."

Become a dedicated member of your community. Volunteer your time to a worthwhile cause and vote in every election. As a citizen of this country, you must realize the many challenges the U.S. is facing, not only in the national security arena, but within our own economic and demographical realities. Be it current immigration policies, unemployment, or greed on the behalf of many of our institutions and leaders. It is as simple as making sure you vote in each election, exercising your right of citizenship and contributing to the causes in which you believe. Volunteer two hours a month in your community or at your church or in your schools'. Take your most precious attributes—your time and knowledge—and share them, not only for your own enhancement but those of your neighbors and friends. Contained within each of you are the talents, skills and abilities to create a new more vibrant existence for yourself and others.

Even the most accomplished of us sometimes need a reinforcing word in our ear, a loving encouragement that pushes us in the right direction or a helping hand to help us over an obstacle. This is what the educated person must do. Isn't that what education is all about?... Education requires that we share with others so that they too may acheive. For to touch souls and to teach minds is the educated person's commitment to the future.

I know you will always be proud of having attended Susquehanna University and that you will always be dedicated alumni. I know Susquehanna will have the great honor of calling you the one of its tireless ambassadors. I am confident you will represent your alma mater well as you go on with your life's work. I know this university has made an indelible mark on you and your life skills. For this university has changed forever who you have become.

Know that no matter where you go in this world or how many life changes you make, one thing will always remain constant. You will always be a Crusader, you will always wear the orange and maroon.


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