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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Assistant Secretary Employment and Training Administration Jane Oates

William Rainey Harper College Graduation
Palatine, Illinois,
May 18, 2013

Thank you Chairwoman Hill, trustees, faculty, President Ender and of course the William Rainey Harper Class of 2013. I am so excited to be here to share this incredible day with you. Harper is an amazing college — one that is not afraid to hold itself accountable and to be very transparent about it. It's a college that openly states its commitment to continuous improvement and institutional excellence and acts on achieving — and exceeding — specified targets to make sure students are getting the best education possible. As I look out at all of you and hear of your incredible success and your exciting future plans to continue your education or move into good jobs, I know that the Trustees and your amazing President are doing exactly the right things.

Graduation speakers struggle with making their remarks meaningful to an audience that they rarely know. And because I know that you are such a remarkable group of people — I want you to know that I have read your polls. In hindsight nearly half of you would have studied more if you had known then what you know know now, and a third of you would have networked more; GreenDay sings your favorite graduation song and you'd like your graduation speaker to be funny and inspirational. A tall order but I'll try.

I'm sure that many of you are still exhausted from finals and papers and all the last minute details that come from earning the right to wear that cap and gown. But I want to remind you that there is a reason that they call this ceremony a 'commencement'. Today is a beginning not an end. Today is the day that you begin the next leg of your journey and I have three suggestions for you:

The first is to recognize that the certificate or degree that you receive today is your ticket to change the world. In whatever you do in healthcare, in manufacturing, in IT, in government — be remarkable. Do what you do with your whole heart and have people who work with you talk about your commitment, your passion, your drive. If you follow that suggestion I promise that you will never be either bored or boring.

The Second piece of advice is to be courageous. It takes real courage to grow up and become who you can really be. Some of us recognize that we have to grow up a little more every day because as we face new challenges and new opportunities we find out that we are not quite finished growing up. Taking a risk is a good thing; changing direction can be invigorating — and the secret is that most of the people on this stage, including me, have stretched to do things that they never dreamed possible when they were your age. So dream big, commit to doing the hard work to make those dreams come true and you'll be amazed at where the road takes you.

These are difficult times — an unpredictable economy, too few jobs, and sometimes it seems that we just keep going around in circles instead of moving forward. But our country has been through more challenging times and each of our struggles has made us stronger. My hero, former Senator Ted Kennedy, said it eloquently. "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die". You done so much of your work choose your cause and go forth and create your future.

But wait, I promised you three suggestions. I always leave the best for last. My final suggestion to you is to celebrate. Celebrate with your friends and family who helped make today happen. Celebrate with your study partners, those who covered for you at work during a final, those who understood when you were late or missing in action, those who gave you a ride to class or lent you money for your caffeine of choice. Celebrate your success, celebrate the future that you are going to create and most importantly celebrate the William Rainey Harper Class of 2013!