Gov. Abbott challenges graduates at University Of North Texas
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AUSTIN -- Gov. Greg Abbott delivered the commencement address at the University of North Texas 2015 commencement ceremony, held in Denton, Texas on Saturday evening. Speaking to the UNT Class of 2015, along with parents, family members, faculty and university administrators, Governor Abbott discussed the challenges he faced as a recent law school graduate, and encouraged the class of 2015 to conquer their own challenges:
“I've never talked to any graduate who hadn't faced challenges on the path to getting their diploma. Each of you has been challenged in different ways. All of you have demonstrated the character to meet those challenges,” said Governor Abbott. “Tonight you'll leave this wonderful school and go into the world to pursue your dreams. Your lives will be filled with exciting twists and turns. You will have many more achievements, and -- inevitably -- you will face many more challenges. Those challenges don't determine your destiny -- you do. Your lives won’t be defined by how you are challenged, instead by how you respond to life's challenges.”
Below is his commencement address, but keep in mind that he often deviates from prepared remarks.
Thank you, President Smatresk. Texas is fortunate to have you at the helm of UNT as the university begins its next 125 years.
I’m honored to celebrate this commencement with the North Texas Mean Green.
I know the caliber of students who attend UNT. My nephew, Ryan Abbott, graduated in 2010 with a degree in Emergency Administration & Planning. He works with the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management. He made UNT proud earlier this week as he put his degree to good use responding to the tragic Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.
I also got to know a UNT student who will be graduating soon; his name is Nick Bradley. Right out of high school and before coming to UNT, Nick enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq until 2008 when a bomb blew up the vehicle Nick was riding in.
Through 16 surgeries, months of rehabilitation, and raw determination Nick pieced his life back together and will now be a Senior at UNT. I was with Nick at the opening game for the Texas Rangers. With 52 screws in his arm, Nick threw out the first pitch.
It’s because of Nick and all those who fight on battlefields around the globe that we have the freedom to fight on the battleground of ideas on campuses like UNT. We never say thank you enough to those who serve our country. If there is anyone with us tonight who has ever worn the uniform of the U.S. Military, will you please stand or wave.
To the Class of 2015, congratulations on reaching this remarkable milestone in your lives. Your hard work and dedication brought you to this moment.
Tonight you’re surrounded by family and friends, moms, dads, grandparents and other loved ones. They raised you. They motivated you. They supported you from their hearts and their pockets. They deserve a big round of applause.
One thing we know for sure is that your family is extremely proud of you. You can’t imagine the sense of joy they’re feeling. Tonight would be a great time to ask for money.
In addition to the pride that you have tonight, there may also be a feeling of los, a sense of sadness that you’re leaving UNT -- forever! Well let me assure you -- you never really leave, because the UNT Fundraising Committee will be on your back for the rest of your life.
I will keep my remarks brief. I can't remember who the speaker was when I graduated from law school. I seem to recall we got some cliché advice about how the future would be full of challenges. I didn't know at the time how prophetic the speaker would be. Little did I know that the picture of me walking across the stage to get my diploma would be the last picture of me walking.
After graduating, I moved to Houston to go to work. A few weeks later I was out jogging when a tree fell and I was instantly paralyzed. The months after my graduation proved my graduation speaker right -- they were challenging. During months of hospitalization I realized the future I had taken for granted was changed in an instant.
But as I worked my way through that challenge, eventually becoming a lawyer, judge, Attorney General and Governor, I found that our lives don't have to be defined by our circumstances. Instead we can determine our lives by our character. I learned that deep within each of us lies the character that allows us to conquer our circumstances.
I've never talked to any graduate who hadn't faced challenges on the path to getting their diploma. Each of you has been challenged in different ways. All of you have demonstrated the character to meet those challenges. Your presence here today, that green cap and gown you're wearing, and the diploma you are receiving show you mastered those challenges.
Tonight you'll leave this wonderful school and go into the world to pursue your dreams. Your lives will be filled with exciting twists and turns. You will have many more achievements, and -- inevitably -- you will face many more challenges. Those challenges don't determine your destiny -- you do. Your lives won’t be defined by how you are challenged, instead by how you respond to life's challenges.
Wherever your path may lead, whatever you may do after leaving here, in the end it won't matter if you are rich or poor. It won't matter where you live or what you do for a living. It won't even matter whether you can walk. What will matter is the unique fingerprint you leave on this world. Ultimately, your life is measured by the fingerprints you leave behind. As you leave UNT we look forward to watching the paths you take and the unique imprint you leave on this world.
Congratulations, Class of 2015. May God bless you all with bright futures, and may God bless the University of North Texas and this great state.