I am honored and humbled to accept this honorary degree on behalf of the entire community of Port Richmond High School this morning, and I thank the board of trustees, administration, faculty and students of Wagner College for this great honor.
In just 33 days, my high school will hold its graduation right over there in the Spiro Sports Center, and several hundred students will have their lives change. Many have parents who came to this country hoping for a better life for their children … and many of my students face the challenges of poverty every day, and still they survived … and many of you graduates helped to make that graduation day possible. Many of those graduates will be the first to graduate from high school and will also be the first to graduate from college. They will walk on this Oval for an hour or two after the ceremony, taking pictures, because those families recognize how big this moment is. That’s the best part of the day for me! Many of you made that happen by being connected to my kids and their families.
I just want to make sure you all know what a big moment this ceremony is. Parents, I want to make sure you all really understand what a phenomenal job you have done in guiding your child to this moment. Your child is graduating from college today! My 9-year-old son, Timmy, and my nephew, Jack Geraghty, are here today, ruining his perfect attendance for the school year, but I wanted to make sure he knows that a college graduation ceremony is one of the coolest things around. I dream of the day when I can enjoy the thrill of what you parents feel today! You graduates and parents need to show all the little Timmy Gannons and Jack Geraghtys of the world how great it is to graduate from college. I want to make sure you all really celebrate this day. Take thousands of pictures in those caps and gowns, take time to thank those special professors who helped you, but — most importantly — take time to look at the smiles on the faces of your parents. Cherish those smiles, and carry those smiles in your hearts for years to come.
Don’t you dare downplay today as an ordinary day! Every hour of today, I want you graduates to find someone to thank, and I want you parents to tell your child every hour how proud you are of them.
There is a misprint in the graduation program, because in the program they call today a commencement exercise. This is not your commencement, this is not your start. Because of the Wagner Plan, your commencement exercises were back in August of 2011, when you first stepped foot on the campus. That was when you truly began today’s celebration.
Today is your “Gotta Keep it Going” exercise. Today, we celebrate the learning that has occurred the past 4 years — but I remind you that learning and the service you gave has to keep going. Today is your “gotta keep it going” ceremony. College graduates across this country are celebrating commencement, and that fits them because they are just now beginning the journey of learning how to use what they know.
But you are Wagner! You are among the few and select college graduates who already know how to serve others, how to teach and touch the soul of a young child, how to hold a hand and heal the sick, how to bring harmony and creativity to our community, how to manage business, how to apply the sciences without ever forgetting that the arts touch our hearts. So you have to forgive Wagner College for the misprint in the graduation program. Please forgive Wagner College for over-preparing you for the world that awaits you, and forgive them for showing you that your commencement of success had to begin back in August of 2011.
You have to forgive Wagner College for providing you with professors who were blinded to your insecurities and weaknesses and, instead, kept celebrating the gifts that you could give to a community like my Port Richmond.
Please forgive those of us in the community where you touched so many and impacted so many because we didn’t always see the great gifts that you were sharing at the time and never understood how precious and valuable you are.
So please forgive all the mistakes and make sure you know that today is not commencement — today is “gotta keep it going” — and know this: You will keep it going. You do have greatness to share! We all are proud of you and thankful for having you help us during these past four years.
On behalf of Port Richmond High School and the community of Port Richmond, I congratulate you, I thank you, I am in awe of you — and promise me … promise me … that your celebration today will be long, strong and Seahawk crazy! God bless you all, and thank you!