Jack Oharah, Welcoming Speech

Jack Oharah

Edmonds Community College Commencement
June 13, 2010

Good afternoon and welcome to Edmonds Community College's 2010 Commencement Ceremony. Thank you all for being here — our board members, special guests, and many, many proud friends, family members, faculty, and staff. You have done much to support the success of these graduates and you are greatly appreciated.

Congratulations to you, and congratulations to all of our graduates. Let's give them a big hand!

Today, we are celebrating the largest graduating class we've had in 10 years. Edmonds Community College is awarding 1,942 degrees and certificates to students ages 17 to 73.

There are many reasons we have so many graduates this year and three of them stand out to me.

The first is that community colleges are no longer the nation's best-kept secret. It's common knowledge that community colleges are not only an affordable way to get an education — but that they provide excellent opportunity. Community colleges received more national attention this year than ever before as the nation looked to our system, our instructors, and our students to help the economy recover. In short, the world is on to us — and it's expecting great things. The world will also be expecting more from our graduates, and I know you will deliver and be a credit to us. You are first-rate!

Here's the second reason: Too many people in our community are losing their jobs or living in fear of job loss. Due to the economic downturn, we had more students coming to our college to retrain and prepare for their future. Those who came to the college for this reason sought to turn disappointment into opportunity. It was not an easy choice to make and it required a great deal of sacrifice. However, these highly motivated individuals are our community leaders, our great neighbors, and are the backbone of our families. They are the kind of people who will persevere in tough times. Now, as graduates, they have turned an upset in life into a cause for celebration. Let's congratulate them!

The third reason we have so many graduates here today is well known to everyone wearing a cap and gown in front of me and that reason is a lot of very hard work. And these graduates kept us on our toes! In 2010, our college worked harder than ever before to keep up with our large numbers of dedicated students. Graduates, we had to work extra hard to ensure that our commitment — the commitment of every college employee — kept pace with yours. We were proud to be able to do it and we are gratified to be able to celebrate with you now. You've earned this!

As some of you may know, this is the last commencement address I expect to give at Edmonds Community College. After serving as president of this college for nearly 15 years, I've announced that I will retire at the end of 2010. I'll remember this class and my time here very fondly.

I feel this college has reached a pinnacle of accomplishment and achievement. 2010 was a stand out year and this is, surely, an especially motivated class.

Sitting before me are graduates of some of our newer programs in baking, event planning, and restoration horticulture as well as graduates earning some of our newer associate of arts degrees in pre-nursing and elementary education.

This year, our students earned statewide, regional, and national acclaim and our programs continued to receive accolades from industry.

Graduates, whatever it took for you to get here today — whether it was taking online or evening classes, balancing college with work or family obligations, or seeking financial aid, scholarships, or grants to make it happen — you did it!

You've gained the tools and the know-how to make things happen. You've shown the resolve to achieve. There is no limit to what you can accomplish — you did the hard work and now you have the credentials to prove it.

I wish you the best as you go on to your future. Hold those diplomas high so your friends and family can see them! Enjoy your accomplishment and celebrate!