Incoming GSC President Dr. Kirk Nooks’ Address to Spring 2018 Graduates
Looking out at you this morning reminds me of my undergraduate commencement ceremony quite some time ago. The location of the ceremony was just south of here in Macon, Ga. I can still recall this surreal feeling that came over me as the program progressed moment by moment. As we sat there listening to the commencement speaker, I remembered thinking to myself, “Am I ready for the real world?”
Mercer had become my second home, and the faculty, staff, and administrators were like family. I knew the exact hours the café would open and close, I was familiar with a number of shortcuts to go from one end of campus to another, and I had status on campus. Yet, after the ceremony, after the pomp and circumstance, after my name was read and I crossed the stage – the question would still be “Am I ready for the real world?”
If you are asking yourself that question today, I do believe there are people in this audience who would enthusiastically say, “Yes, you are ready for the real world?” Your parents would say yes because they want you to move out – permanently - and get a job – and pay your bills. Your faculty members and Dr. Rayfield would say yes because they will affirm, this morning, that you have completed the necessary coursework within a specific program of study – and they want you to move on – and get a job – and give to the Gordon State College Foundation. And I would say Yes. Yes, you are ready for the real world because we need you. We need you now and more than ever we need you to BE a Highlander!
There are three characteristics that I will point out to you this morning.
As a Highlander, you must always have your - Shield Up.
As a Highlander, you must always have your - Sword Ready.
As a Highlander, you must always be ready for the call - Highlanders, Forward!
Having your Shield Up means that you are prepared to defend the values that represent the spirit of Gordon State College – Character, Culture and Scholarship. Having your Shield up will allow you to be fearless while defending these values.
In reference to character, Katie Couric said, “Be fearless. Have the courage to take risks. Go where there are no guarantees. Get out of your comfort zones even if it means being uncomfortable. The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricade bumps and uncharted waters. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested. And have the courage to accept that you are not perfect – nothing is and no one is – and that’s OK.”
Defending the value of culture, Mahatma Gandhi taught us well when he shared, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” Your time here at Gordon has brought about a passion of your heart and beauty in your soul. I hope that you have learned that developing culture takes time, it should not be rushed, and it reflects the very best we have to offer our colleagues, our college, and our community.
Having your Shield Up will finally allow you to defend the value of scholarship. Whether advancing research or imparting timeless truths, embrace your role as a lifelong learner and be willing to share your knowledge with others.
Not only will you have your Shield Up, as a Highlander you must also have your Sword Ready. A sword conjures up an image of a long metal weapon used in battle. While we can agree that swords should be used in battle, for the purpose of this morning’s address your sword is your mind.
This Gordon State College experience has prepared your mind to go into battle with those who seek to undermine the aforementioned values. We go into battle with our swords by using our words and academic preparation to advance knowledge, enlighten darkness and instill hope.
Today we celebrate, but tomorrow the learning continues. You must keep your sword sharp and ready at all times. This means “Being open-minded; it doesn’t mean just believing everything because you like it to be true. Being truly open-minded is about being prepared to change your beliefs based on the evidence or the lack of evidence.” – Derren Brown
So keep your sword ever-sharp and ever-ready because sometimes in life you will need to cut through the noise to hear the beautiful melodies.
Being a Highlander requires not only having your Shield Up, and Sword Ready, but is requires being ready for the call – Highlanders, Forward!
Forward into your destiny. While many have prepared to fulfill their destiny, only the great will move forward to seize it when the opportunity presents itself.
[The story of two salesmen.]
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
To the graduating Class of 2018. You are ready for the real world.