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May 21, 2011

Congressman addresses record crowd gathered for 2011 Spring Commencement

U.S. Congressman Rodney Alexander spoke to a record-breaking crowd at Fant-Ewing Coliseum on Saturday, as a total of 863 students earned their degrees from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Alexander told the students, and the sea of family and friends who joined in celebrating ULM’s spring commencement exercises, that although they may feel as if the hardest part was over, they may have actually just completed what could be the easiest.

"The hardest part is achieving your goals in life," he said. "Today you commence on your journey in life with your diploma as the credential of your academic and professional skills. Now you take the tools you have acquired here and commence your life’s work."

Alexander dared the students to live by boundaries of their own making.

"You must live from your heart, not just from your mind," he said. "As you begin the next stage of life, set out to make the world better than what was given to you. You can leave an undeniable mark on this world for the better."

The congressman told the students the most profound message he could impart is to be mindful of how quickly the next 40 years would pass.

"I don’t have the magic to convey this message to you. That is something you will gain from your own experience" Alexander said.

Members of the audience applauded as Alexander also gave a nod to those in the service, who dedication to their country may have delayed their graduation by several years.

He also encouraged the new graduates to be unafraid of making mistakes.

"When roadblocks appear, and they will, find a way around them ... Find a different direction to advance your cause," he said. 

"Your generation will shoulder many responsibilities and burdens, and from my own experience, serving others and helping others brings the greatest satisfaction in life, and it is the best way to improve our world," he said. "Remember that all great leaders were first great servants."

Alexander read from an anonymously authored article titled, "A Leader," which pointed to the value of being a great team player before becoming a great team leader.

"As you commence your journey in life, encourage the fainthearted. Seek the ideas of those too shy to speak out. Teach those with little skill. Praise those who work hard. Love one another, and get the job done," he said.

Alexander concluded, "I extend my congratulations on your success and a job well done. May God always have you in His safekeeping."

Following Alexander’s keynote address, ULM President Nick Bruno handed diplomas to the graduates who participated in the ceremony. 

Before conferral of degrees, special recognition was also given to Mr. Marcus Swayze, a 1936 graduate of what was then known as Ouachita Parish Junior College and one of the oldest alums of the university.

His wife, June, joined Swayze. She received her degree after raising their family in 1974.

Bruno read a letter from a charter school in Houston, whose mascot is Captain Marvel, a Marvel Comics character whom Mr. Swayze used to draw and occasionally write story lines about.

Several of ULM’s “Golden Members,” those who graduated 50 years ago, were also acknowledged during the ceremony, as was Carrie Ann Jones, the great-great-granddaughter of T.O Brown, a former Ouachita Parish School System superintendent who was instrumental in the founding of ULM in 1931.

Saturday’s record-breaking graduation outdistances the previous record set last spring, when ULM conferred 762 degrees to 757 graduates.

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