celebrated its spring commencement with five ceremonies Tuesday and Wednesday, conferring a total of 2,229 degrees.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed addressed graduates of the university's College of Humanities and Social Sciences during Wednesday morning's 10 a.m. ceremony. Commencement speakers for the other ceremonies included Bill Bolling of Atlanta Community Food Bank, Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee, Cobb Chamber of Commerce CEO David Connell and Ryla, Inc. founder Mark Wilson.
Jessica Colotl, the political science major who has long been at the center of an illegal immigration controversy, was among the graduates who walked during Wednesday morning's ceremony.
Kennesaw State President Daniel Papp began the university's 122nd commencement exercise with a "final, final exam" for the graduating seniors. As a demonstration of the diversity of the 2011 graduating class, he asked the graduates to stand if they were the first in their families to graduate, had worked or participated in community service during their time at KSU, were married or had children, or served in the armed forces.
“How many of you are on facebook?” asked Papp. “How many of you are tweeting?"
“How many of you are tweeting now?” he joked.
Papp then introduced Reed to the podium to make his speech.
Reed encouraged the graduates to applaud each other for their achievements. “The louder you clap right now, the shorter my speech will be," he said. “Let’s go, let’s lift everybody up.”
Reed's speech was filled with jokes and anecdotes with an overall message encouraging graduates to have a personal impact on the world: “Please remember that you extend your own life by contributing to something that will outlast it."
“The outcome of your own life now means something to a broader community than you,” said Reed, as he told graduates to ask themselves, “What will be my collective place in history?”
Reed noted the university's progress and also gave Kennesaw a special congratulations for "becoming the state's number one producer of teachers this year.”
“You have a lot to be proud of, but responsibility comes with that pride," said Reed.
“I would submit to you that my generation and your generation have not been challenged and tested to do the hard things like our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers did," he said.
Reed encouraged students to always "do the hard things" when need be.
“I believe that turning into the fire is where greatness is,” he said.
Reed also encouraged students to not only demonstrate a strong work ethic but to come to enjoy its benefits: “I want you to fall in love with the grind. I want you to fall in love with hard work.”
Reed concluded his speech with a final story about his love of the Dallas Cowboys as a kid (although, he made sure to note that he now supports the Atlanta Falcons), and focused on the football term "yards after contact."
He told graduates not to be discouraged by apparent obstacles, by the dream job they don't land or the opportunity that slips by as negatives can turn into positive outcomes if faced head on.
"When your spirit is down and you think you’re not doing enough, remember 'yards after contact,'" he said.
He concluded the speech by stressing the importance of personal responsibility, noting that sometimes, “the helping hand that we need is at the end of our own wrist."