Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Current Issues Forum- Texas A&M

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Monday, November 26, 2001  •  Speech

Thank you Taylor.  Howdy!

I want to tell you how honored I am to be here today, in the presence of so many bright young men and women with so much promise and a lifetime of opportunities awaiting you.

You have already made one of the most important decisions in your life by virtue of the fact that you are here (and I’m not talking about the wisdom you have shown by coming here to listen to me). I’m talking about the choice you made to go to college.

The Texas of the 21st Century will be in the hands of those who are educated, and education in Texas can no longer be considered K through 12- it must be K through 16.

Even if lectures in Chemistry 101 or Poly Sci. 206 don’t motivate you too much, maybe this will: the average college graduate earns $1.2 million more over their lifetime than the average high school graduate in Texas.

I think about how fortunate I was to attend Texas A&M University, and that was back in 1968 when it was all guys.

My parents were tenant farmers in West Texas.  When dad came back from World War II, he didn’t have time to go to college.  He, and my mom, began their life grateful that the world was at peace, and they had land they could farm.

But Texas A&M, and colleges and universities around this state, said to young Texans like me, “we want you- you are our future.”

And it is no different today as I look out into this audience- you are the future of this state: the future doctors, school teachers, scientists and Aggie engineers.  And we desperately want you to succeed.

In Texas, we have made a commitment to our young students graduating from high school: if you study hard and stay out of trouble, we’re not going to let money be an obstacle to a college education.

And through the new TEXAS Grant Program, we are making the statement that, “Texans of modest means should not be limited to modest dreams.”

You have been especially wise to choose Texas A&M.  Because this school not only enlightens young minds, it teaches solid values, that “other education” you hear so much about.

You have all heard that Aggies are different- sometimes the t’sips don’t mean that in a flattering way when they say it, but it is a positive commentary.

What sets Texas A&M apart from all institutions is not our love for our football team, there are many rabid football fans at schools across the nation.

It is not the pursuit of academic excellence, other institutions from Harvard to Stanford are also pushing the envelope of academic excellence.

It is not even our yells or phrases like ‘good bull” and gig’em, though they are certainly unique.

What sets us apart, what makes us different, is the meaning we give to our common bonds, it is our remembrance of our fallen classmates, and it is our legacy of service. 

In the deadly trenches of World War I, in places like Normandy, Corregidor and Anzio during World War II, in the freezing conditions of Korea, in the jungles of Vietnam, in the sands of the Persian Gulf, the men and women of Texas A&M left a lasting imprint through selfless service. 

Our’s is a history, to paraphrase General MacArthur, that has been written in the blood of our graduates.

And now our nation will be calling once again on the men and women who wear the uniform, and Aggies will once again answer the call, saying, “send me.”

But even if you do not serve in the military, your calling as an Aggie remains that of service…in our nation’s classrooms, as a mentor to a troubled child, as a leader in the world of business, or in many other capacities.

You are on this planet to make a difference, and this school is affording you the opportunity to meet that high calling.

For 125 years, the men and women of Texas A&M have responded to the call of duty, and served with honor.  They have epitomized the virtues of strong faith and devotion to fellow man; and they have stood for freedom at all costs.

Those virtues are unchanging, they don’t come and go with a strong northern wind, because they anchor us on solid ground.

The challenges of our day are in many ways unique, and yet we are all called to serve.

Make the most of this tremendous blessing you have been given to attend this great institution.  Be diligent in your studies, work hard, and keep close to your heart the lessons learned through “that other education” the one that was sparked in you at your first Silver Taps, at that first Campus Muster, at that first Midnight Yell.

There will be days of great joy, and days of great difficulty, moments of great clarity, and moments of doubt.

But if you ever doubt that you can live up to the great Aggie legacy, think about those young 20 and 21-year old boys who landed at Normandy, who held strong at Corregidor, and who endured in the mountains of Korea and the jungles of Vietnam.

They too had doubts, they too were not always certain of their destiny, but they were certain of their calling, to serve.

So keep the fire burning, and keep sacred the Aggie bond.  Us old Ag’s are proud of you.  We know you will do well.  Thank you, God bless you, and gig’em. 

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