More than 300 graduates earn degrees

Graduates+and+their+families+and+friends+listen+to+Congressman+Tom+Rice%27s+words+of+encouragement+and+congratulations.+

Photo by: Christina Xan

Graduates and their families and friends listen to Congressman Tom Rice’s words of encouragement and congratulations.

Leah Power, Staff Writer

On Dec. 19 FMU held the graduation commencement for the fall class of 2015.

The event celebrated the 354 students who earned their degrees. Congressman Tom Rice gave the commencement speech.

“[They] could have stayed in [their] hometowns; [they] could have taken the easier path, but [they] chose the harder road to prepare [themselves],” Rice said. “It took hard work and perseverance, but [they] made it and [they] will receive a diploma today that will serve [them] the rest of [their] lives.”

Rice talked about how we all come from families of immigrants who came to America to flee persecution, to pursue their dreams, and find personal happiness. However, while those are the things the US is know for, it hasn’t ever come easy. Our ancestors took the opportunity to better themselves, just like the 354 students took this opportunity to further their education and increase their chances for success.

They worked hard and pushed past the difficulties and negativity that they experienced.

“America isn’t the land of guarantees or give away’s, it is the land of opportunity,” said Rice.

Like Rice, life didn’t make it easy for many of the students to make it to the stage. Many students dealt with families, jobs, a lack of support, finances and the stress of managing all this on top of schoolwork.

Rice told the audience about struggles he faced growing up to encourage graduates to constantly persevere.

Rice said that growing up in a strained household put Rice in a difficult position from an early age. When he was 3-years-old, Rice lost his father and was not able to spend quality amounts of time with his mother because of the amount of hours she had to work to support her family. After seeing the need for money he also started working from the early age of 12. After working for a few years Rice learned the meaning of hard work and determination.

He eventually became the manager of a puttputt course at the age of 15. While managing the course he continued to excel in school thanks to the encouragement from the people closest to him.

However, discouragement wasn’t ever far away. People were quick to point out the impossibilities that life set in front of him.

His dream of becoming a lawyer was mocked, and life got in the way many times. Rice looked at somebody else who was mocked, and set that person as his inspiration. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to give up when he was a skinny child dreaming of becoming a body builder and instead did everything he could to become successful in that area. He refused to stop when people mocked his decision to conquer the acting world even though he spoke very little English. Instead, he worked hard and became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. He also refused to give up when people mocked him as he ran for governor of California. He pushed past the limitations that life set in front of him to become everything he set out to be. He looked at what he needed to work on and stayed focused even when others pointed out the problems that they believed would stop him, and that’s what inspired Rice to continue on pursuing his dream.

Like Rice and Schwarzenegger, these 354 students overcame adversities to reach the final goal of walking across the graduation stage. From allnighters, exams and papers to more serious problems like finances, family problems and illnesses these students pushed through and defied the odds that stood before them.

“So as you walk across this stage here, keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings and enjoy it, you earned it,” Rice said.

One aspect of this commencement that was notable is the record number of students graduating with graduate degrees. Of the 354 degrees conferred, 98 were not undergraduate degrees. Two students, Amber Griffith and Kili Gause, graduated with University Honors, and Rice and Rannie Gamble received honorary degrees for heir dedication to the state and the university.

Jamesa Mariah Dunham said she was relieved but also had bittersweet feelings about leaving FMU.

“To graduate from this university brings about mixed emotions for me,” Dunham said. “Francis Marion is a place with great diversity, but after interacting with others within my major I found that we have so much in common. A part of me is excited because I have completed a phase of life that many don’t have the opportunity to begin, but I can’t help but think about how different life will be now that I’ve graduated.”