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CG delivers ASU commencement speech

By Pamela Jackson | | May 7, 2009


More than 300 proud graduates of Albany State University’s Class of 2009 celebrated their pomp and circumstance Saturday with a resounding voice of wisdom coming from Maj. Gen. Willie J. Williams, commanding general, Marine Corps Logistics Command.

Dr. Everette Freeman, president of ASU, a historically black college and university founded in 1903, introduced Williams as a man of extraordinary valor with extraordinary service and a proud graduate of Stillman College, also an HBCU.

Freeman told the hundreds gathered at the Albany Civic Center, “The Marine Corps has officers who are singularly the best of the best.  Then, there are those officers who are a smaller, more elite group, and they are flag officers or generals.  They are a small, close knit group who are the very best that the Marine Corps offers.  Our speaker today is the best of the best and a leatherneck with a heart.  He is a fine example of what our graduates should strive to achieve.”

Taking his place at the podium to the sound of a rousing applause and cheers from the audience, Williams told the graduates, faculty, family members and friends that he was deeply honored to share this special day.

“I want to share with you that I do understand what this day means to each of you, where you come from and I also understand your thoughts, emotions and desires for today.  I hope you will not only listen, but take something away from what I have to say,” Williams said.

“Look in the faces of those who have walked the journey that you are now on. Your future is rooted among our history and this nation’s history.  Your destiny is not written for you, you have to write your own destiny.  You should be mindful that you have a charge to keep.  Our history binds us together and forms our culture and keeps our moral character true,” he continued.

Jasmine Williams, who graduated with a master’s degree in public administration said, “Today’s speaker reminded me that no one is going to drop anything in your lap.  If you want something, you must work for it.  His speech encouraged me to continue to keep working towards all of my dreams.  To whom much is given, much is required.”

Williams told the graduates to “remember that your glories are yet to be, and your legacy starts today.  Where it begins and ends is up to you.  A key factor is knowing who you are and liking yourself.  It is critical that you like yourself, or you will spend the rest of yourself with someone you don’t like and you will have a choice in that.”

Another graduate, Pam Hall, deputy command inspector general, Office of the LOGCOM Inspector General, said, “What stood out the most to me was the following words of wisdom: Your degree only gets you to the door.  What you do gets you through the door and that the world doesn’t owe you anything.”

“This statement was so profound to me because now that I have my master’s degree, it is up to me where I go from here.  The degree will get me to many doors, but it is up to me to get through the door.  The world doesn’t owe me anything - I owe the world to put my degree to work to benefit and help others.  It was such an honor to have the general give such an awesome commencement address.  I received rave reviews from my colleagues to pass on to him about how awesome his words of wisdom were,” Hall said.

“General Williams unquestionably is one of the most accomplished graduates of his era. When you look over the vast landscape of men and women who graduated from colleges and universities in the 1970s, very few match or exceed General Williams’ level of excellence, achievement and distinction. Con-sequently, asking him to be our commencement speaker was an easy decision and one that brings great honor to ASU,” Freeman said.

Williams’ address continued with, “You can feel sorry and be sorry about where you come from or you can be proud of yourself and strive to go as far as your abilities will take you.  That is the spirit you need to carry forward.  That is the path that I chose.  Your degree will open doors, but that is about it.  The rest is up to you.  Sometimes you will have to knock and knock until your knuckles bleed. Doors will slam in your face, but you must pick yourself up, dust yourself off and knock again,” he said.

Williams encouraged the graduates not to allow extraordinary circumstances to paralyze them.

“The world won’t give you anything, and I ask you not to go out there thinking that or that it owes you something because it doesn’t.    As a matter of fact, you owe the world much more than it owes you,” he said.

“Up to this point you haven’t done anything to warrant any more than the degrees you have received today.  Your future successes will have to be earned, not given.  You will be well served to take lessons from the legends who have gone before you, especially those who have struggled along the way,” Williams said.