May 21, 2011

(Washington, D.C.)—U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) delivered the commencement address today at Nashua Community College. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

President Jordan, members of the faculty, honored graduates, family and friends: I’m delighted to be here with you today to celebrate the accomplishments of the class of 2011!

This is a day you all worked very hard to reach.  You should be proud of what you have accomplished. 

But no great accomplishment is achieved alone.  Here with us this morning are your friends, your families, your teachers – the people who supported you when you stumbled and encouraged you to keep going.  Today is their accomplishment as well. Congratulations!

I want to commend President Jordan and all of the faculty and staff for continuing to grow the opportunities here for New Hampshire students. With record enrollment, new facilities, and your new Smart Start program for high school students, Nashua Community College is a growing and vital institution that is helping to shape New Hampshire’s future.

It’s great to be joining the Class of 2011 for this wonderful occasion. I find commencement addresses are among the most challenging to give.  As the speaker, I always want to say something profound and inspirational on this momentous occasion.  But as a former student, I can tell you that I don’t remember any of the speakers at my own graduations.  So today I will follow the advice of Franklin Roosevelt, “Be brief, be sincere, be seated.”

For all of you graduates, college has meant challenge and hard work.  For many of you it has also meant personal sacrifice as you juggled family responsibilities and jobs to complete your education.  Some of you have struggled with changing careers in midlife.  But despite the challenges, all of you have stuck with it because you know that your degree promises more job opportunities, higher salaries, and a sense of personal fulfillment.

And you’re right about the importance of your degree and your education.  Educational attainment is the best predictor of personal economic security. In today’s knowledge-driven economy, those who learn more, earn more. As international competition intensifies, business is looking for educated workers who can provide the critical thinking and technical skills that you have developed here.

You are entering a world with high demand for skills in science, technology, engineering and math. Jobs in these fields are expected to be the fastest growing occupations of the next decade. Nashua Community College has a great history in technical education, and because of your accomplishments here, you are prepared to excel in the 21st century economy.

America’s edge has always been our know-how and our can-do spirit, our ability to innovate and come up with the new discoveries that drive the world’s economy. With the education and training you have received here, you will help America continue to lead in the new global marketplace. 

Of course science isn’t all gears and wires. I know many of you here have trained in nursing and other health fields. I was admiring your new Health, Sciences and Humanities building – what an impressive addition it is!  It is impressive not only because of its design, but also because of what it provides: a first-rate education in the fastest growing industry in New Hampshire, health care.

Whatever your major, all of you have worked to improve your fortunes and your future.

But getting a good education is not just about getting ahead. I hope many of you will also consider using your considerable skills and talents to improve your community. Community service means something different to everyone.  But what’s always true about service is that it means the world to the people who are on the receiving end of that support. 

You don’t have to look far to see an example of what I’m talking about. The students, faculty, staff and alumni of Nashua Community College have worked together to ensure that this school lives up to its name, reaching beyond its walls to help the entire community. Together, you have contributed nearly 12,000 hours of community service this year. Nursing students have helped give flu shots to public school kids. Students in the Peace and Social Justice program have worked with the state and the Nashua Soup Kitchen to survey Nashua’s homeless population, collecting data to improve state services. And throughout the year, you’ve partnered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA, and the United Way.

Our state needs citizenship like that. It needs the citizenship all of you can provide. It needs technicians, parents, nurses, business leaders, elected officials. Whatever path you have chosen, whatever journey life takes you on – remember that you can make a difference. 

Margaret Mead, the great anthropologist, once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Today marks the end of a very challenging and rewarding period in your lives, but also the beginning of a new set of challenges and rewards.

I offer you all my congratulations and my sincere wishes for success in whatever path you may take in life.  Thank you.

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