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U.S. senator encourages GGC grads to give back

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- U.S. Sen. Jack Reed told the graduates of Georgia Gwinnett College he's learned an important lesson while raising his 3-year-old daughter, Emily.

"If you took something out, you have to put it back," the Democratic senator from Rhode Island told the 69 graduates of the Lawrenceville college during his commencement address Friday evening.

"If you have received from this extraordinary school not just a degree but an education, not just a collection of memories but lifelong friends, not just a job but a vocation that excites you and challenges your mind and your spirit, then you've got to put something back," Reed said. "You have to support the next generation of Georgia Gwinnett College students and the continuing mission of this remarkable school to educate men and women of conscience and character to meet the challenges of a global economy and a global society."

Reed was invited to speak at Georgia Gwinnett's fifth graduation ceremony because of his lifelong friendship with the college's president, Daniel Kaufman.

The two men met while students at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Reed was a plebe, or freshman, when Kaufman was a senior, and the two were in the same cadet company. During formation, the cadets lined up in order of height, and because Reed and Kaufman are about the same height, they stood next to each other.

"I always tell other students to be kind to everyone, especially other students, because you never know who's going to end up successful and famous," Kaufman said.

After West Point, the next time the two saw each other, they were both students at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. They later taught together at West Point.

Reed's service spans more than 25 years at the state and national levels, after first serving the country in the U.S. Army. Beginning in 1984, Reed served three terms in the Rhode Island State Senate. He then served three terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from his state's 2nd Congressional District. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996.

Kaufman said Reed is an example of integrity, civility and respect for others.

"We can have no better role model as an engaged public servant to emulate than (Reed)," Kaufman said.

Reed said being a good citizen means being a good servant.

"... We all have to serve, not necessarily as soldiers, but certainly as citizens," Reed said, "defending our rights but also shouldering our responsibilities, being part of our community, using our talent and ambition to get ahead but not ignoring those who might be left behind."

Raymond Wiggins, an honor graduate who received a bachelor of business administration, said he was inspired by Reed's remarks.

Wiggins said he plans to expand his business and wants to continue his education -- perhaps even get a Ph.D. and teach at Georgia Gwinnett College one day.

"I will pursue my career with just zeal and creativity, scholarship and leadership," he said.