Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks at the Kinkaid School 2007 Graduation

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007  •  Speech

Thank you, Frances [Jeter]. And thank you, Don [North], for inviting me here tonight. Members of the Kinkaid Faculty, proud parents, distinguished graduates: it is an honor to participate in a great rite of tradition as the Class of 2007 celebrates one of life’s greatest milestones- graduation. Tonight marks the culmination of more than a decade of homework, book reports and pop quizzes. You have survived algebra, geometry and even calculus. You have learned about the Pythagorean Theorem, Boyle’s law, and some of you can even recite “Pi” ten places past the decimal. More importantly, you have survived Mr. Germann’s AP U.S. History class and lived to tell the tale.

Many of you have worked hard for this day. The rest, well, we’re just glad you made it. Of course, laboring by your side all these years have been parents and loved ones. For years they drove you to your soccer practices and piano recitals, realizing the only thing harder than keeping up with your schedule was handing over the keys to the car when you turned 16. They have worked hard and I would like to ask the class of ‘07 to join me in applauding their labor of love. Their pride in your accomplishments is so great, that they have temporarily forgotten that tuition is about to go up for four years.

Though it happened in a previous century, I still have vivid memories of my own graduation. In fact, I could probably tell you the names of each one of my classmates from the Paint Creek School, all 12 of them. I can also tell you I don’t remember a single thing that was said by the commencement speaker. So I will be brief and cut to the chase. I came here today with some important advice and important observations. If you remember these five things, you will be okay. First, and most important: LISTEN TO YOUR ELDERS! Second, the oil light on your car is not for decoration. It doesn’t offer suggestions, it issues ultimatums. Third, never ask a barber if you need a haircut and never trust a skinny cook! Fourth, that string that rolls out of that small container is called dental floss. It goes between your teeth. Use it. And fifth, no matter how hard you look you will find no question marks among the Ten Commandments.

It’s been said before that graduation is not the end, but the beginning. Your time here at Kinkaid has bestowed upon you one of the best educations in the country, from world-class teachers and inspirational mentors. You have not just received a great academic education, but have benefited from lessons in character, discipline and integrity that will serve you well the remainder of your life. No one is more prepared for the future than the 2007 graduates of the Kinkaid School. Though it may seem the norm here, I want to say that I am immensely proud that almost 100 percent of you are continuing on to pursue higher education goals. I am also proud to hear there are nine future Aggies here tonight! Congratulations to you all. You’ve made a great choice to call home for the next years. And for those of you heading to the University of Texas or another state school, I won’t hold that against you, because I know you will be a positive addition to the student body.

I’m sure there are more bright minds here tonight whose top choices were Texas schools, but because of bad public policy have had to settle for a university out of state. The state’s Top 10 percent rule is bad policy that discourages bright young students like yourselves from pursuing a college education and subsequent careers here in Texas. At its core, the Top 10 percent rule is frankly the best thing to ever happen to the University Oklahoma, Arkansas and LSU. But back to what we’re here for tonight: A celebration of your achievements, and inspiration for what’s to come.

I have long believed you can only achieve what you envision. In a country like America, there are limitless possibilities. We are home not only to the dreamer, but the doer. So as you go off to college, and one day enter the workplace, never misplace a sense of youthful idealism. As you close this chapter in your life and begin a new one, you are exposed to innovations and opportunities that previous generations couldn’t even imagine. You live in a world today in which you are manned with cell phones that take pictures, IPODs that play movies, and cars that give directions, that last innovation of which must have come from frustrated women. We have 24-hour news channels where information is available from across the world at the click of a remote, and DVR’s that can make an hour-long program 42 minutes without commercials. You’re exposed to high-def and widescreen. And have a web of information available to you at the click of a mouse. As you sit here tonight, you are not only the inhabitants of a new universe, but the masters of it.

Yet, imagine the power felt by students 100 years ago, mostly young men, who were poised at the cutting edge of their own new century with new tools available to them: electricity, flight, automobiles, telephones, transcontinental travel by rail. Great fortune being amassed in steel, oil and banking. For them, the possibilities were endless. Great men and women of our nation’s history once sat where you are tonight. Kinkaid’s coat of arms is decorated with worldly philanthropists, scientific geniuses, celebrated maestros, and an American president. Students of character and conviction. Imagination and ambition. Notables such as James Baker, William Hobby, Jr. and John Sutton – great Texans who dedicated their lives to government and public service – are part of the legacy of Kinkaid. These Texans have led and continue to lead with distinction, and they have not only lived successful lives, but significant lives. And there is a difference.

The world’s definition of success is a large house with a three-car garage, expensive cars and a backyard swimming pool. But there is more to life than the accumulation of material. There are many successful people in the business world with large bank accounts and empty souls. And there are others still that live in modest conditions, but who have accumulated a wealth of riches defined by the lives they have lived and the differences they have made. There is a truism about life we would all be wise to remember: that our blessings are never made full until they are shared with others. There are causes greater than self. One such cause, is service.

When Ronald Reagan spoke to aged veterans and their families on the forty-year anniversary of the Normandy Invasion atop the rocky cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, he invoked the image of their heroism that day, and how they scaled those cliffs bravely in the face of enemy fire. And then he asked a simple but poignant question: “Why?” Why would young Americans feel compelled to lay down their lives for our country? Why would they climb to an almost certain death, and sacrifice all their dreams for citizens they would never even know? That is a hard question to answer, but clearly it wasn’t because they thought of themselves first. For some, it may have been a love of country, for others a deep desire to protect freedom, and for others still, a desire to liberate an oppressed people living under the bondage of tyranny. Some survived that day, and the entire war, to live in the peace and freedom they valiantly fought for. Others never made it off that beach. At the age of 19, 20 and 21 they breathed their last, never to marry their sweetheart, never to have children, never to see them graduate. Yet, their lives continue to bear great significance.

We are free because they were brave. Because they chose to serve. The proud history of our great nation, and the yearning in our hearts, is rooted in service. For centuries, decent Americans of all ages, backgrounds and heritages have made this nation great. And they’ve achieved the highest levels of personal fulfillment by following the simple principle that others should come before self. And satisfaction can come through a multitude of ventures. Whether it be in the military, a local police or fire department, or in the halls of the capitol, public service is an honorable calling that must be answered by honorable individuals. I see it this way: we have one life, and therefore one opportunity to leave a lasting imprint on the world around us. No matter the path your new lives take you, serve. Make this nation yours. Take pride in what you do, and that you are doing it for others in addition to yourself.

As graduates of the Class of 2007, the world is before you to shape. May you lead with inspiration and dignity for those you serve. Being here with you tonight gives me great optimism for the future. God Bless you all. And congratulations.

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