“I know you’re excited and happy to receive your degree today, but I also know that you must feel some sadness,” Garren said in a video sent to undergraduate and graduate degree candidates. “I, too, share your disappointment, because a college graduation ceremony is a very important milestone in everyone’s lives. I understand your sadness and frustration because we have lost a lot of these last few months.”
Garren reminded graduates that the occasion was a particularly special one for him, as well.
“It was to have been a big moment in my life also, for I, too, am graduating after nearly two decades of calling Lynchburg my home. This place is a part of me, as I know it is for you as well. It is a place we all dearly love.”
Also via video message, U.S. Senator Mark Warner delivered an abbreviated, albeit heartfelt, commencement address that included three pieces of advice. The first: “Don’t be afraid to fail.”
His first business right out of college, Warner said, failed within six weeks, his second after six months. His third attempt led him to co-found Nextel. But it was during those times sleeping on friends’ couches and “being flat broke” that he learned his most valuable lessons, Warner said.
“I’ve probably learned as much, if not more, from my failures in life, than I have from my successes,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to take risks. And if you fail, pick yourself up and try again.”
Warner’s second piece of advice: “You have a responsibility to stay engaged as a citizen,” something that’s more important now than ever. “We need … people that can disagree about issues, but disagree in a way that doesn’t question each other’s patriotism, each other’s faith,” he said, adding that his many years in politics have taught him that “no one in politics has a monopoly on truth, virtue, or patriotism.”
Thirdly, Warner said, “Call your mother. … As you think about graduation and how you got here, chances are you didn’t get here alone, that it was your family, your friends, extended others, who made it possible. I don’t care who it was … seek them out, and tell them ‘thank you.’”
Following Warner’s speech, Garren conferred degrees to 59 doctoral degree candidates, 56 master’s degree candidates, and 335 undergraduate degree candidates. Additionally in April, 37 Doctor of Medical Science degrees were conferred. By the end of this summer approximately 740 undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees will have been earned.
“It was a pleasure to celebrate with you today, even at a distance,” Garren, now joined by his wife, Sheila, said in closing. “I do hope to see you on the weekend of October 30, when you will walk across the stage and receive the applause that you have earned. Go forth and turn your passion into purpose, and remember always — it’s a great day to be a Hornet!”
You can watch the full video below.