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House Speaker Beth Harwell congratulated graduates of Tennessee Tech University Saturday by noting that their achievement of a college degree is an accomplishment that only a third of Tennesseans share.

“Education is the silver bullet that has the power to take down the ills of our society,” said Harwell.

A former professor and advocate of higher education, Harwell acknowledged that a four-year degree does not guarantee success, but a well-lived life could result from following some practical advice.

“First, be humble,” she said. “Our world is starving for humility. In the age of immodesty we now find ourselves in, be different by not being showy.”

Harwell told graduates to avoid debt, to be thankful for what they have, and to be generous to others.

After telling them to count their blessings, including the four-year degrees they would soon hang on their walls, Harwell told grads to meet the challenges of life head on, to persevere through challenges. She recounted the early election losses of President Abraham Lincoln, along with the early setbacks of Angry Birds creator Rovio.

“Over the course of eight years, they created 51 games you have probably never heard of and were about to declare bankruptcy before striking gold with Angry Birds,” Harwell said.

“Some of the best lessons in life will come to you through your failures,” Harwell said. “In this land that you live in, a solid education and bedrock principles really can ensure that you achieve.”

Harwell addressed the guests and graduates of the morning commencement ceremony for the Colleges of Agricultural and Human Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Millard Oakley addressed the afternoon ceremony for the Colleges of Business and Education. He is the namesake of TTU’s Millard Oakley STEM Center, which has reached thousands of students, educators and visitors through its hands-on programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics since opening in 2010.

“There are students in this room, you graduates, who have talents you don’t know you have,” he said. “You have to find your niche in life, get out in the real world and find it.”

With a career in law and business, Oakley acknowledged there are obstacles to most goals. “When you catch a few bumps in the road, don’t quit.”

“The harder you work, the luckier you get,” Oakley said. “Don’t worry about the competition. There’s always room at the top for those who have a good work ethic.”

More than 1,300 degrees were awarded Saturday to students from 76 counties throughout Tennessee, 33 states and 19 countries. Tennessee Tech has more than 75,600 alumni worldwide.