Northern Virginia Community College celebrated its 51st graduation on Sunday, May 14. U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine delivered the commencement address to about 1,500 graduating students at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va. The 2017 Commencement theme was Believe, Aspire, Achieve.
Sen. Kaine said he tries to always say yes when asked by one of his staffers to officiate at their wedding, and when asked by a college or university to speak at their graduation ceremony. Both events recognize life-changing moments in the lives of the participants. He pointed out that, particularly in the Washington, D.C. region, it can be hard to find people who agree or agree to disagree with kindness. He challenged graduates to try to find commonalities with people who are polar opposites in thought and ideology.
Kaine said that, when he was first elected in 2012, he was relegated to a basement office in the Capitol Building, as freshman senators are. He learned an important lesson in dealing with people from his new assistant. From the time she arrived at work in the morning, her phone would ring and people would be screaming at her as soon as she answered. When he asked her how she so quickly and easily turned them toward a positive attitude, she replied, “I listen to them. When I actually take them seriously, they’re surprised and grateful.”
He said, while his Spanish is a mix of “gringo spanglish,” he was told by Spanish-speaking constituents that they were grateful that he could listen to them in the language they were most comfortable speaking. He told graduates that listening is an important skill that would help them succeed.
Dr. Scott Ralls charged graduates to remember the three tenets that are this year’s commencement theme: Believe, Aspire and Achieve. He said that all the students there entered NOVA with the belief they would eventually succeed. Their beliefs may have been tested and tried. Their aspirations may have been limited to the task at hand—just let me get through this test or this class! As they conclude their time at NOVA, their confidence and aspirations have strengthened. They realize that NOVA was just one leg on their pathway to success, knowing they will have an impact on the world even greater than they could even have imagined.
In this year’s graduating class were a Jack Kent Cooke scholar who struggles with autism; a young husband and wife, parents of a four-month-old baby and both first-generation college students who have overcome great odds to complete their degrees; a woman with Down’s Syndrome who will transfer to George Mason University in the fall; an 89-year old cyber-security graduate and a 91-year-old World War II U.S. Navy veteran. These students achieved their success while defying great odds.
“Today, you have not just met graduation requirements, but you have achieved in a way that has made a mark on our college, and prepares you to make a mark on the world around us,” Ralls said. “Go out and conquer the world.”
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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.