Holloway tells Virgina College graduates of ‘shared responsibility’

Here is the prepared text of the Commencement Address that Mayor A.J. Holloway delivered to the graduates of Virginia College’s Biloxi campus in a ceremony on Jan. 5, 2008 at the Sacred Heart Center in downtown Biloxi.

President Newton, Dean Taylor, distinguished faculty members and guests, and, finally, to our graduates:

I’m honored to deliver this Commencement Address. I congratulate the members of the graduating class of the Biloxi campus of Virginia College.

Virginia College, like so many institutions in our community, was just out of the gate when Hurricane Katrina struck.
Students had enrolled that summer and classes were to begin in October of 2005.

Much to the credit of the administration and staff — and students — the college was able to open classrooms a month later, in November. And eight months later, members of that first graduating class received their diplomas in a ceremony on the Biloxi Town Green.

Today, you members of this class are continuing to make history. Many of you were the first students to enroll after the storm.

Like so many in our community, you have dealt with adversity. You did not merely endure, you prevailed.

In 1947, George C. Marshall, the former general of the army, former chief of staff and former secretary of state, gave the commencement address to Harvard University.

In that speech, which was delivered two years after the end of World War 2, Mr. Marshall outlined a plan for the re-building of Europe, which later became known as the Marshall Plan.

His idea was that economic chaos led to conflict, and that all nations and all people have a shared responsibility to make things better.

Remember that phrase “shared responsibility.”

Today, as I speak to you, one can see parallels. Here we are, two years after the most destructive storm in recorded history, and we are going about the business of rebuilding.

But I have to tell you that I’m no George Marshall, and I’m not here to unveil a Holloway Plan. I think we have a plan here in Biloxi, and I think we’re making progress each and every day.

You graduates – by your accomplishments under such adversity – are clear testament to that progress.
But, today, as you move forward with your degree and as you begin the next chapter of your lives, I ask you to consider your station in life – what you HAVE accomplished, and, now, what you CAN accomplish.

Remember that phrase “shared responsibility.”

We live in extraordinary times. We are at the threshold of seeing a rejuvenated community spring forward.

Someone once said that opportunities are often disguised as impossible situations. Well, you graduates have an abundance of unprecedented opportunities – regardless of whether it’s in the fields of medicine or healthcare, casino resorts or criminal justice.

But you should also understand that professional opportunities are only a small part of the life you lead.

I challenge you to grow on a personal level as well. We’ve been struck by many things in this remarkable experience we’ve been through. There’s the awesome power of nature. The resolve and determination of our community to rebuild and persevere.
The amount of time and paperwork and long lines we endure.

And, finally, through it all, there’s been the massive outpouring of support from people of all ages … from all corners of this nation … and from around the globe.

One of the most profound occurrences we’ve witnessed is the groups of college students who’ve volunteered in our community.

They’ve come on spring break. They’ve come on Christmas break. Some have even sat out a semester to help people re-build their homes. They’ve left and come back time and again.

They’ve helped change lives, and while they were changing lives, something else happened. THEIR lives changed. They gained a new appreciation for what’s important.

It’s not your clothes, your car or your possessions. It’s not what you HAVE. It’s what you GIVE. To get it, you have to give it away. Community service is the highest of callings.

So, today, as you relish this milestone in your life, I ask that you commit yourselves to being a good person. That you help your neighbor.

That you realize that we all indeed share the responsibility of making this a great community and a great life.

Out of adversity comes opportunity, and we’ve all been given a great deal of opportunity.

Share the responsibility of making it happen. Now go out there and make the most of it. God bless all of you.