President Riggs Welcome & Charge

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Good morning, and welcome to the one hundred seventy-fifth commencement exercises of Gettysburg College. And, of course, a very special welcome to the class of 2010 and to their families and friends.

This amazing place never feels better than it does on a day like today-when families, faculty, alumni, trustees, distinguished guests, and friends come together to celebrate our graduates.

This class consists of a very special group of individuals. We thank all of you who have shared them with us the last four years. You who are graduating are extraordinary individuals who will go forth from Gettysburg and make a difference-some of you through discoveries of things not yet known to us, some with new ideas and perspectives, some through public service, some with creative works, some with innovation, and some of you through a series of everyday acts of kindness and compassion.

We send you off with mixed emotions-we will miss you, but we're also very proud to send you on your way, knowing that great things are ahead for you. Please stay in touch and come back to visit.

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge some important people who are here today. First, my faculty colleagues. Would you please stand.

Of primary importance at Gettysburg is the relationship between an individual faculty member and an individual student. Our faculty have profound impact on our students' lives. For some of you graduates, that impact may be clear already. For others, it might be several years before you fully realize that impact. Our faculty have taught, mentored, and cared very much for and about this class. Graduates, would you please join me in expressing your appreciation for the faculty who have worked with you during your four years here.

It seems appropriate also to recognize our faculty Marshal, Sherm Hendrix, an alumnus of Gettysburg College and professor of biology who has served so well as our marshal for the last 10 years and is retiring this year.

Next I'd like to acknowledge some representatives who are here from our Board of Trustees up here on the platform. Would you please stand. Our Board gives generously of their time, talents, and resources to ensure that the College provides students with a world-class liberal arts experience. Please join me in giving a hand to our trustees for everything they do.

And finally families of the class of 2010. Would you please stand. Today I identify most strongly with those of you who are parents. Two of my own children graduated from college yesterday-from two different colleges. So it's been a busy weekend for the Riggs family! I certainly understand the pride-and in some cases, relief, that many families are feeling today. Graduates, your families have cheered you on, supported you, and believed in you, even when you might not have believed in yourself. Please join me in expressing your appreciation for the love and support they have offered during the last four years.

Class of 2010, take a moment and remember back to when your class assembled for the first time for convocation four years ago. You sat right where you sit today. Your class flag was flown for the first time over Pennsylvania Hall. Today it flies again, signifying the end of your undergraduate experience. We know that Gettysburg College has left an enduring mark on you, but we want you to know that you have left a mark on Gettysburg College as well. To symbolize that enduring connection with Gettysburg, you'll have an opportunity to sign your Class Book after you have received your diplomas, and this book will be permanently placed in the Alumni House.

This is a wonderful day-a day of celebration and reflection, and-we hope-a day of inspiration.  Welcome, and enjoy this very special moment.

Charge to the Class of 2010

It's my great honor to deliver a charge to this year's graduating class.  Today is a momentous occasion for all of you and I'd like to say something that you will all remember.  And I'm fairly certain that the key to that, particularly at this point in the ceremony, is to be brief.

It is easy to assume that someone else will do what needs to be done to solve a problem, to resolve a conflict, to improve the human condition.  But you have received a Gettysburg College education and that education is among the best offered in this country.  Now and into the future, it's your responsibility to put that education to good use.  And you should do so with confidence.  You have the capacity to solve the problems; you have the capacity to resolve the conflicts; you have the capacity to improve this world.   

My charge to you is simple really.  Do not pass the buck.  Step up and take responsibility.  And when you do step up, do so with humility, with compassion, and with integrity.  It is your time to shine. 

Congratulations and my best wishes go with every one of you.