GODFREY – Lewis and Clark Community College had record participation in its 45th Annual Commencement Wednesday, May 18, celebrating the achievements of more than 1,000 members of the Class of 2016.
This year’s speaker, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher Lu, touched on the strengths of the community college system and left graduates with a parting message about the importance of inclusion and acceptance and their role in achieving hope in the face of adversity.
“I know that community colleges are the ‘secret sauce’ of our education and workforce system,” Lu said. “Community colleges are incubators of innovation and opportunity. They strengthen businesses and invigorate local economies. And that is why the Department of Labor has invested billions of dollars recently in community colleges, including Lewis and Clark. Our investment is not just in the buildings and the equipment. Our investment is in our most precious natural resource: the graduates of today and tomorrow.”
His speech alluded to Lewis and Clark’s involvement in the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative, which has helped strengthen programs like Process Operations Technology and Welding Technology, and which helped make the creation of the college’s Truck Driver Training program possible.
Lu quoted President Barack Obama in saying that community colleges are a place where “people of all ages and all backgrounds – even in the face of obstacles, even in the face of very difficult personal challenges – can take a chance on a brighter future for themselves and their families.”
The key to ensuring that brighter future, he said, involves coming together as a family of Americans.
“In the United States today and always, our diversity is our greatest strength,” Lu continued. “Even with all of our differences, we are inextricably bound by a shared pride in our nation and a common belief that in America anything is possible.”
Lu’s parting words posed a challenge for members of the graduating class to help open doors for those who come after them, as others have opened doors for them along the way.
“Find common ground with people who practice a different religion or hail from a different country,” he said. “Learn from everyone, especially those who share different political views. Keep your hearts and minds open. Not everything is quite as simple as it first seems.
“Strive to live up to our highest ideals. Challenge those who seek to make our country less tolerant and less inclusive. And just as you have done here at Lewis and Clark, lend a hand to your fellow travelers on the climb up the ladder of opportunity.”