Rep. Henry Fincher tells summer graduates to rise to their responsibilities

“With great privilege comes great responsibility.”

That’s what Tennessee State Rep. Henry Fincher told 418 graduates and their friends and families yesterday at Tennessee Tech University’s summer commencement ceremonies at the Hooper Eblen Center.

Earning a college degree “puts you in a position of privilege and honor,” Fincher told graduates, pointing out that only 27 percent of the nation’s population has a higher education degree and less than 10 percent of the population has a graduate level degree.

That select minority has a debt of responsibility to themselves, their families and future generations of students, he said, offering quotations from Winston Churchill, George Burns, Albert Einstein and Ralph Waldo Emerson to support of those statements.

“Discipline and hard work are skills you’ve already learned, or you wouldn’t be here where you are today,” Fincher said.

He advised graduates to continue honing those skills in order to meet other difficult life choices they are likely to encounter and quoted Churchill’s admonition to “never, never, never give up.”

To that effort, families can be a source of both support and distraction, he continued, pointing out that comedian Burns defined happiness as “a large, caring and loving family — who lives in another city.”

“But to your family, you owe affection, attention and respect,” Fincher continued.

Finally, today’s scholars owe a debt of responsibility to future generations, he said, whether it’s through teaching, mentoring or simply leading by example.

“We are here for only a short time, but all of us are here for a purpose,” he said, encouraging graduates to acknowledge the lessons taught by previous generations and to anticipate paving the way for future generations of scholars.

Fincher said it was Einstein who pointed out — at a commencement address in another time and place — that education is the work of many generations, each one building on the other.

Success is the gauge by which to measure how well these responsibilities to self, family and future generations are being met, Fincher suggested.

He questioned various ways to measure success — from money to fame to position or title — but said he feels it’s simply happiness, fulfillment and contentment that are the true marks of success.

Fincher left the audience with a final quote from Emerson: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.”

Students who graduated this summer hail from 37 states including Tennessee, 65 Tennessee counties and 43 foreign countries. They represent 28 undergraduate fields of study and 20 graduate fields. Doctorate degrees were awarded to 13 candidates.

Among those earning a bachelor’s degree this summer was country music performer Rodney Atkins, an Academy of Country Music New Male Vocalist honoree.

An undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies was conferred in absentia after university officials discovered that Atkins had enough accumulated credits from his previous college career to earn the degree.

TTU is the first Tennessee Board of Regents school to graduate students with the degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Following Saturday’s ceremony, TTU has granted more than 61,000 degrees in its history.


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