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Former Gov. Ridge challenges new graduates of Edinboro University to speak up, take action


Thomas J. Ridge, the nation’s first Secretary of Homeland Security and former Pennsylvania Governor, on May 10 at Edinboro University urged graduates of the Class of 2014 to speak up, to ignore critics, and reject to cynicism.

Speaking before a capacity crowd of nearly 4,000 at Edinboro University’s Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony, Ridge told the graduates to listen to their elders but never let others speak for them or tell them that something can’t be done.

He cautioned his audience against cynicism, to which he linked the partisan gridlock that grips national politics, and he made what he called a “personal appeal” to the graduates to vote.

“Please never let your preoccupation with your busy life keep you from taking the time to vote only twice a year. … I sincerely hope you embrace it twice a year, every year,” he said.

In a wide-ranging speech that quoted Teddy Roosevelt and evoked the accomplishments of Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers, and Col. Edwin Drake, Ridge cautioned against being deterred from voting because cynics say it doesn’t matter or pursuing change and progress because someone says they can’t be achieved.

“You will learn more, do more and invent more than any generation before you,” he told the graduates. “All you have to do is combine passion with vision and make it work. It’s that simple, and it is that important. The ability to foresee what people will need and make it happen is an American tradition.”

Ridge was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service for his numerous exemplary contributions as a soldier, congressman, governor and cabinet secretary.

The ceremony in Edinboro’s McComb Fieldhouse celebrated the academic success of 738 undergraduate students who completed requirements for associate and bachelor’s degrees. A separate Graduate Student Commencement later in the day honored 188 recipients of post-graduate certificate and master’s degrees.

The combined 926 graduates comprise one of EU’s largest graduating classes to date.

In addition to Ridge, speakers at the Undergraduate Commencement included President Wollman; Council of Trustees Chairman John E. Horan; Edinboro University Alumni Association Board of Directors President Mary Timashenka; and student speaker Meagen Finnerty, of Freedom, Pa., who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media Studies with dual concentrations in print journalism and public relations.

Student speaker for the Graduate Student Commencement was Laurie Lawrence, of Erie, who received a Master of Arts in Communication Studies.

 Video footage of Governor Ridge’s stirring commencement address is available on

His speech begins at about 1:18.