President Gueverra, Board of Trustees, members of the faculty, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is with great honor that I join you today in the inauguration of Dr. Jonathan Gueverra as the sixth president of the Florida Keys Community College.
Founded in 1965, this institution's mission is to serve the intellectual, diverse, cultural, and workforce needs of the Florida Keys. Just like the community it calls its home, FKCC is a unique and special place that can best be described by its motto -- "Island living. Island learning." And although it is true that this college is on an island, the difference that it is making in the lives of its students and in this community reach far beyond the waters that surround us because knowledge and the pursuit of excellence know no boundaries.
As we move further into the 21st century and our economy continues to evolve, we cannot stand idly by in the hopes that the skills of the past can meet the challenges of the future. Today, I am proud to say that by offering its students the opportunity to earn an associates degree in 12 different academic areas and hosting programs in continuing education for this community, FKCC is doing its part in ensuring that the people of the Florida Keys are ready to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. Dr. Gueverra, like all of the local leaders I have gotten to know over these last few months, understands that although we will always work to preserve the Keys' way of life, we live in an age where technology and an ever-evolving and complex world requires each of us to continuously grow and evolve with it if we are to continue to move forward.
In his tribute to English universities, John Masefield wrote that "there are few earthy things more beautiful than a university." That they are "a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see; where seekers and learners alike, banded together in the search for knowledge, will honor thought in all its finer ways." These words are fitting today as we mark the inauguration of a man who has dedicated his life to the advancement of knowledge in our local schools.
Dr. Gueverra began his academic career, just as I did, at a community college. He earned his doctorate of education and MBA from the University of Massachusetts. Having served as the provost of Northern Virginia Community College's Alexandria campus, Dr. Gueverra was then recruited to lead the effort to create the first-ever community college in our nation's capital. It is ironic that Dr. Gueverra would go from Washington -- a city that defines much of our nation's public life but has also come to symbolize much of what is wrong with it -- to the Florida Keys, which in my view represents all that is right with America. And maybe I am biased, but to make it clear to my colleagues that we need more of an "Island Living. Island Learning" approach to life in Washington, on my first day in office we flew the flag of the Conch Republic over the Capitol.
Dr. Gueverra understands us because although he was educated in the Northeast, he too was born and raised on an island. And his work has earned him numerous recognitions, including a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Wentworth Institute of Technology. I personally believe that it was premature to grant Dr. Gueverra a lifetime achievement award -- not because of a lack of merit, but because his body of work continues to inspire us today across this body of islands.
We wish him the best of luck as he guides this young and growing college through a future that I am confident will be brighter than its illustrious past. Thank you -- to you, your wife, Josephine, and your children -- for making Key West your home. Our community and this college are better off today because of your efforts.
I am certain that under Dr. Gueverra's leadership, this fine institution will continue to do what the people of the Florida Keys have always done: We move forward. Although we may live in a beautiful island paradise, our lives are part of the main because Conchs are leaders. We are also good neighbors because while water surrounds us, we understand that no man is an island and so we care for one another. We always challenge conventional wisdom with an eye toward the future while navigating the often times difficult and troubled waters of life and the only time we stop to take a look back is to stop and admire how far we have come.
Thank you. God bless you.