In full regalia and smiling broadly, the largest graduating class in the history of Regent University—1,005 strong—processed to their seats on the plaza in front of the university's library and joined an audience of more than 5,000 assembled friends, family and other guests. Thomas M. Saltsgiver, chairman of Regent's Board of Trustees, extended greetings from the board and then introduced Regent Chancellor and President Dr. M. G. "Pat" Robertson.
After adding his warm welcome, Dr. Robertson began his introduction of the Honorable Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. "He is a person of great distinction," Dr. Robertson said, highlighting Gov. Romney's proven leadership in business, government and repairing the 2002 Winter Olympics. "He is an outstanding American."
Before beginning his official remarks, Gov. Romney applauded Dr. Robertson for building a center of excellence at Regent University. He then turned to the graduates and began recounting some favorite days of his youth spent with his family along the shores of a lake. "That's the first time I went beyond the sandbar," he explained, adding that the deep water was where he has always wanted to be. "There the water is not as warm and not as clean as where it's shallow but it's more exhilarating," he said. "In the shallow water life is all about yourself, but in the deep water life is about others."
Reminding the audience that it is in the deep water where one finds challenging ideas and opposing opinions, Gov. Romney gave several examples of people who are working and living "in the deep water of service and compassion."
Pointing out that one of the most important decisions the graduates would one day make would be whether and whom to marry, Gov. Romney called love the ultimate and highest goal to which we can aspire. Love of family was a prominent theme, along with appreciation for the great American spirit. "But you are also giving a great deal of thought to your career," he told the graduates. "Some of you will be tempted to stay close to the shore ... where there are no big breakers and you will never make waves."
The governor compared those who will push beyond the sandbar to those who came to these shores 400 years ago. "Exploring new frontiers is the very heritage of our land," he said. "Those Jamestown settlers crossed the broadest waters and dreamed the grandest dreams ... it's the heart and spirit of America."
As the graduates listened intently, Gov. Romney began his own charge to them. "If ever there was a time for Americans willing to cross into the deep waters," he said, "it is now." Encouraging the graduates to reach beyond the shallow into the more rewarding deep water, he both challenged and invited them with his closing words: "Come on in, the water's fine."
In a surprise announcement earlier during the ceremony, Dr. Robertson invited Dr. Jack Hayford, founder and chancellor of The King's College and Seminary in Van Nuys, Calif. and president of International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, to the prodium. Hayford, a long-time friend of the university, was presented with a check for $1 million from Regent to King's College. No one was more surprised than Hayford, who admitted that he needed to lean on the podium for a few moments to take it all in.
Commencement ended with cheers, smiles and the sound of clicking cameras. A new group of leaders walked from the plaza into futures full of promise.
To watch Regent's 2007 commencement click here
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