Gov. Perry Encourages Graduates to Take Advantage of Texas Economic Power
Congratulates Prairie View A&M Class of 2009 on Accomplishments
*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
It is GOOD to be in Panther country. It is GOOD to celebrate the achievements of some fine young people. It is GOOD to be at Prairie View A&M.
We are gathered here today, in a place rich with history, to bask in the warmth of a future that is very, very bright.
Bill [Jones], can you make sure I get a picture of me in this robe? I want to send it to my mother and father. More than once in my college career, they thought I wouldn't make it to my own graduation, much less speak at one.
Fortunately, the importance of a GPA fades a little bit over time, and a person's life experience starts carrying more weight in the eyes of the world. Thank the Lord for that.
For the class of 2009, that grade point average looms large in the way prospective employers view you, but you have something more important to offer than just a number on a piece of paper, you can tell them you graduated from Prairie View A&M.
There are a lot of people who have never set foot on this campus, who already hold this university in high esteem because you have sent so many great ambassadors into the world...like the class of 1959 here with us today.
The first thing that comes to mind when they think of Prairie View A&M is George Wright, strong academics, competitive athletics and a glowing reputation. but I also think of a marching band so good that concession stand sales go DOWN at halftime.
My alma mater brags that our band never lost a halftime show, but I've been at Kyle Field when the Marching Storm paid a visit and we may have met our match that day. Of course, it's not a fair fight when you have Black Foxes on your side.
As much as your tradition of musical excellence sets you apart, I believe the quality of your graduates gains you even greater distinction. Over the 133 year history of this school, Prairie View A&M has been a transformational force in tens of thousands of Texas families, communities, and businesses.
Throughout the years, this school has served as a point of entry into the next level of endeavor and earning, giving members of each generation a way to break through barriers that had previously held their families back. Even here today, we have graduates who are the first generation in their family to attend college, just like my sister and me.
I think it is impossible to overstate the importance of that education and the ripple effect it has.A college degree will certainly increase your earning power, but it will expand your influence even more because of what it tells the world about you.
I wear an Eagle Scout pin on the lapel of my coat every day, because I want the world to know that I achieved a milestone that many attempt, but few achieve, and send the message that they can too, if they persevere.
By the same token, your degree from this place certifies that you have what it took to complete a rigorous course of study, found a way to pay for it, and survived at least four homecoming weekends.
People take notice when a Prairie View man enters the room, or a Prairie View woman joins the conversation, because they know that you were molded by a group of peers who respect you, a faculty that genuinely cares about you, and a school culture that celebrates excellence.
In years past, they might have admired the fact that you survived losing football seasons, but this year's Panthers took care of that. Nothing like a 9-and-1 record to quiet the critics, and teach a lesson in perseverance.
Before you leave this place today, I hope that you will pause for a moment and reflect on how truly special this school is. Not every school has a faculty that takes such an active interest in the personal development of their students.
In every conversation with Prairie View alumni, I hear story after story of professors who went the extra mile, going beyond a teacher's basic duties to earn the title of mentor.
My friend, Donna Williams, is a distinguished graduate of this school and a regent for the Texas State University System. Earlier this week, she told how her professors would grab the phone, and call students who missed classes to say "your mother didn't send you down here to stay in your room. Money don't sleep!"
Now, I'm sure none of today's graduates ever needed that kind of call, but examples abound of Prairie View faculty members investing in the lives of their students, and holding them up to the Prairie View standard.
As I look out across this remarkable group of students, I basically see a collection of walking, talking mutual funds, because you represent such a depth of investment by a broad spectrum of investors.
Think about it. You represent the investment of your parents, who brought you into this world, taught you right from wrong, and wrote a lot of checks over the last twenty or so years. How will you thank them?
You represent the investment of the faculty and staff of this fine school, who provided a safe environment for you to live and learn, to question and contemplate, on your way to wisdom. How will you prove them right?
You represent the investment of your classmates who sat up and studied with you, marched with you to protest injustice, laughed at your jokes, and cried with you in the tough times. How will you reward their faith in you?
You also represent your own investment, of time spent studying, money you earned to pay tuition, and risk taken to achieve great things. How will you test yourself?
Like a mutual funds, you are also on the hook for something the financial types call a "return on investment," your personal ROI.
So I ask you, what ROI can the people in this room expect from you? How will you carry the legacy of this university forward?
I expect you will pursue a life lived above reproach as an ambassador of Prairie View A&M, a living proof of the values you learned here.
I hope that your return on investment will benefit the young people of your community, when you encourage them not to believe the lie, that college is only for valedictorians and rich kids.
Let them know that Texas is working hard to improve the quality of education all across the state and making it more accessible to all. Tell them that we have increased the amount of available financial aid available by 500% over the past ten years.
As a result, approximately 93,000 more Texas students will receive state-funded financial aid in 2009 than in 1999. That's 93,000 families changed forever by education.
I hope your return on investment will include attempting great things in the world of business, making your way in the world, and taking part in our state's remarkable economy.
You can certainly include me in the group of commencement speakers who encourage you to volunteer in your community, but I will also challenge you to put your education, talents and drive to work on something even bigger, creating jobs for others.
As long as I have been in public service, I have worked to create an environment where Texans can apply themselves, risk their capital and pursue their dreams of success.
I have worked hard to keep taxes low, regulations predictable and our legal system fair, so that entrepreneurs don't get wiped out before their ideas have a chance to succeed, and their success leads to jobs for others.
Consider Panther alumni like Dr. Bettye Davis-Lewis Combs, who founded Diversified Health Care Systems in Houston, or Mrs. Nathelyne Archie Kennedy, who founded a well-known engineering firm in the same area.
These are people who applied their education to a powerful dream and, in the process, generated paychecks for employees that pay for housing and food and maybe even someone's college education.
I would challenge you to generate that sort of return on this investment, to strengthen the ripple effect, as you affect the lives of others.
As you leave here today, I offer you my sincerest congratulations.
We are so proud of you, and we have such high hopes for you and your future as you represent Prairie View A&M to the world.
Your student body president, Johnie Jones was talking the other day about a little "call and response" you do here, that you'd know what to say when I say "PV!"
In your hearts, I want you to be proud of PV.
With your voices, I want you to tell the world about PV.
With your hands, I want you to thank PV.
Congratulations to the Class of 2009. As you go out into the world, may God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.