Below is the text of the commencement invocation by Dr. Peter Slade that was omitted during the rain-shortened commencement ceremony on Saturday, as well as the full text of the commencement address by Sen. Bill Harris, which was cut short because of the weather conditions.
Graduation Invocation on a Blustery Day, Ashland University, May 8, 2010.
God of wisdom and power, love and sacrifice,
We take this time at the start of our Graduation to ask for your blessing and guidance as we pause at this crossing place.
We remember with honest gratitude that those graduating today did not get here by accident.
This has been a long journey that started before anyone arrived at Ashland University.
We take time to remember all those who have encouraged, taught, nurtured, prayed and paid that we could be at this crossing place today:
We give thanks for the proud parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, and children;
We give thanks for the teachers, mentors and professors;
We give thanks for the faithful friends.
At this crossing place we look back over the years of study at Ashland--the papers, exams, classes, deadlines, extensions, relationships, road-trips, games, sleepless nights, laughter and sadness--and give thanks.
At this crossing place we look ahead--with anticipation and with anxiety--to a future which is sometimes uncertain and always unknown.
And God (this is where our praying gets serious), we pray that you would bless and guide those graduating today.
We don't ask today that you would prosper their plans and schemes. On this windy day as we pray for your blessing and guidance, we pay attention to your Wind Advisory: we remember that the wind blows where it chooses and we hear the sound of it, but we do not know where it comes from or where it goes, so it is with everyone guided by your Spirit.
We pray that blown by the wind of your Spirit you will guide those graduating today in the paths of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
We pray that blown by the wind of your Spirit they will go out into this nation and world, loving their neighbors and working for the good of all.
Ashland Commencement Address by Sen. Bill Harris
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Chairwoman Miller and members of the Board of Trustees…
Graduates and all those who are here to support you…
My heartfelt congratulations.
It is truly an honor to be part of what is one of the biggest and most proud moments of your life. I assure you, there are many more to come:
Many at this ceremony will go on to earn advanced degrees and wear the cap and gown again.
In the near future, many of you will rise to the tops of your chosen fields garnering the praise and respect of your peers. (After all, you are Ashland University Graduates!)
Many of you (if you haven’t already) will someday stand before an altar and join your life to your best friend in marriage.
Some of you will feel the sense of pride and patriotism as you don for the first time the uniform of our great Country.
So many of you will one day have the privilege of looking into the eyes of your own child or children, just moments after they enter this world.
And, all too soon after, many of you will be sitting where your parents are sitting, full of pride and bittersweet emotion as you watch your son or daughter begin their journey in life (hopefully as Ashland University graduates).
Your whole lives are ahead of you (opportunities, challenges and blessings).
I have been fortunate to share many of those special moments and I am here to tell you, it all moves very fast…so for today, just savor this day.
Don’t get too ahead of yourselves or allow your experiences on this earth to be clouded with worry or extreme ambition.
Live for the day and give thanks for what you’ve been given.
The opportunities ahead of you are tremendous and there will undoubtedly be challenges – both of which will keep you on target.
I strongly recommend that you approach each opportunity and challenge with a servant attitude.
The prophet Micah, when questioned by the naysayers as to what his God required of him, said: “Do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your lord.” (Micah 6:8)
Please strive to make Micah’s answer your focus and always remember, “You can achieve anything that you want, as long as you help enough people achieve their objectives,” or as Lou Holtz would say: “You can get anything that you want in the world if you help enough people get what they want.”… Servant leadership.
Though it hasn’t been perfect, these are tenants I have tried to live by in my many years and I can tell you that by God’s grace I have been truly blessed in this life.
I have strived to be a servant leader to fellow Marines, employees of my companies, to my fellow elected officials and most importantly, as a member of a beautiful and supportive family.
I will let you reach your own conclusions about which presented the greatest challenge – disciplined Marines, those whose paychecks I signed, those who called me dad (and wanted to borrow my car) or politicians!
All of these experiences had their challenges and setbacks and not everything turned out as I planned.
But in each and every season of my life, I have been amazed by the opportunities the Lord has put in front of me.
I was born in Northeast Tennessee and attended school at a small rural high school.
When I graduated, I decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps instead of going to the University of Tennessee to play football. My father told me that I was dumber than he thought.
Less than a year later when I found myself in Korea and a machine gunner in 50 below zero temperatures, I realized (as we children often do) that my dad was right, about me being dumb! (I see the dads in the crowd nodding their heads).
In all, I would go on to serve 23 years, including two tours in Vietnam as an intelligence and counterintelligence officer.
My service enabled me to earn a degree in primary & secondary education from the University of Arizona, attend graduate school, travel to many places I may never have seen, meet people I am blessed to know, and to have some experiences I’d rather not talk about today.
When I ended my military career, fortunately, it didn’t take long to find my new calling -- in the auto business, instead of teaching and coaching.
A gentleman in California invited me to work for him in the automobile business. I resisted at first because I don’t know what your impression of car salesmen is, but I didn’t think I’d be able to spend my days making an aggressive pitch for more car than an individual needed or wanted.
Nevertheless, I kept an open mind, went through the sales training program and soon realized I had it all wrong and by God’s grace I loved the job, felt great about what I was doing, working with and helping people with their automotive needs.
This job soon led me to Ohio, where I opened a dealership for my California employer and within a couple of years, found an opportunity to buy my own dealership here in Ashland.
Again, I had to trust in the Lord. In February 1981, interest rates had increased to 21½ percent and we had invested all of our resources including our retirement to buy our dealership. However, by God’s grace our business grew and flourished and we were living the American dream. After all the years in Southeast Asia, away from my family, here I was in business with my family and I could see them every day. I was truly blessed.
To coin an old southern phrase, “I was happy as a pig in manure.” I was content to keep running our businesses and eventually, my three sons would have the dealerships and I could spend lots of time on my farm in Ashland. But the Lord had other plans and knocked on my door with another opportunity.
As a business owner, I had been active in the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and supportive of our local State Representative, Doc Byers, who understood that profit isn’t a bad word and that state government should not over-tax, over-regulate or micro-manage business if they know what is good for our economy.
Unfortunately, Doc had a stroke in late 1993 and was unable to run for reelection. I was one of the loudest voices in the crowd saying we needed a business person to run. When no business person filed, a number of people suggested that I ought to be willing to do what I was asking of others (and that my three sons could run our businesses better than I could). The boys encouraged me to run and assured me, with “limited input from me” they could manage the dealerships.
My wife and I prayed about it and before I knew it, the Lord had put me on yet another adventure I hadn’t even dreamed about and I was being sworn in as a State Representative for the Ohio House 93rd District in January 1995.
I’m confident that Doc Byers would be proud that I am still fighting the good fight when it comes to supporting Ohio’s business climate (and the importance of education, especially higher education, to the economy of our great state---- I might add).
I have been proud to represent my constituents and to serve in leadership positions, including as President of the Ohio Senate for the past five and a half years.
As a retired Marine, I have found there are many similarities to commanding marines and leading the Senate – though I must say, Marines ask fewer questions.
When I led Marines and private sector employees, I used an acronym as a reminder to achieve our goals and stay on task. I want to share that with each of you as you begin your path toward your own goals and careers.
V =FDAR. Vision = Focus, Discipline, Accountability and Responsibility. Five words to live by.
Vision – that refers to the comprehensive components of goals we set for ourselves -- Seeing the complete plan for success.
Focus – we must apply tunnel vision to each goal even amid the many distractions that will come our way.
Discipline – we must dedicate ourselves with total determination to the tasks at hand, through faith, confidence and courage.
Accountability – You must always answer to your fellow man for your actions -- never blame anyone else for your failures.
Responsibility – we each have a responsibility to one another and to ourselves to do the right things in God’s eyes. Be very generous in giving others credit for success and self-evaluate mistakes and failures.
REMEMBER----V=FDAR supported with prayer-- your formula for success.
By virtue of the fact that you chose to attend this fine institution, I would argue that each of you have a strong foundation and a leg up in achieving your goals and accepting the path the Lord has set for you.
President Finks, we are all extremely proud of Ashland University’s reputation for training the best educators in the state – through Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral degree programs. As I travel throughout our great state, I meet the best teachers and they are mostly Ashland University taught. I see the application of the acronym, V=FDAR, in the leadership of you, your staff and faculty and your Board of Trustee.
From the nationally recognized John F. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, to the outstanding MBA program, to the largest seminary in Ohio, your second to none athletic facilities including the Schar Football Stadium and Field House Complex, and now plans for the nursing college and the opportunity to bring Richland and Ashland counties together, maximizing education, economic development and medical research. YES, North Central Ohio is truly blessed with the commitment and vision of Ashland University.
To you graduates – please remember that this University will always be part of your identity no matter where you go.
I encourage you to support it and to give back when you can.
I am not just talking financial support, but also by being an ambassador, by helping future Ashland graduates in the workforce when you can and by coming back every once and awhile to bring your life experiences as a way to teach those that follow you.
At the end of this year, due to term limits, my term as Senate President and State Senator will end. I am very much looking forward to settling down on my farm not far from here and spending time with my wife, Cay, our children, grandchildren and our horses and other animals. That is -- provided the Lord does not have another job in mind for me. If He does, by His grace, I’ll be ready.
Remember that no matter where you go or what you accomplish, the most important thing is do as Micah said, “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your Lord”. Please always apply V=FDAR.
I encourage each of you, as I said before, to savor each day and don’t get too ahead of yourselves…
Be focused on your goals but not at the expense of your fellow man…
Practice servant leadership…
Be kind and don’t be cynical and good things will come to you…
Always remember where you came from and give back more than you received…
Thank you again for inviting me to share this special day with you and God Bless each of you in your future endeavors.