Former President Bill Clinton told graduates at West Virginia University Sunday (May 16) they need to be “in the future business.”

“We all have to understand we are in this future together,” Clinton said at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences commencement. “You can’t stop the world. You have to learn to live with confidence in the face of change. You have to help people who have not had the opportunity to sit where you are sitting. You have to do it with the work you do.”

Approximately 1,000 graduates received their diplomas at the ceremony, the University’s largest. An estimated 12,000 of graduates’ family, friends and guests filled the seats of the WVU Coliseum.

“I looked over the degrees that were being awarded today, degrees in biology, chemistry, physics, math, literature, psychology, criminal justice, national security, political science, social policy,” Clinton said. “They all have in common one thing, in different ways to be sure, but all together they are preparing you to play a significant role in not only your own future but the future of your state and the future of your nation and, for some of you, the future of the large world.”

Click below to hear Bill Clinton talk about the connectedness of the future:

[ Download as MP3 File ]

Pointing to changes in technology, medicine, the Internet and the world, Clinton said, “Things are really exciting, if you are in a position to take advantage of them.”

Clinton urged graduates to serve their communities through volunteer work. He recognized WVU’s Center for Civic Engagement and noted the 182,000 hours of community service donated by more than 13,000 WVU students in the past year.

“That too is an important part of your future,” he said.

In addition to being the college’s keynote speaker, Clinton was recognized with an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

He declared his love of West Virginia, noting that he was here during campaigning for his presidency, his wife’s campaign and for Mother’s Day with his elderly mother and wife. And, he mentioned that he cheered for WVU in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Click below to hear President Clinton talk about why he loves West Virginia:

[ Download as MP3 File ]

“Two wonderful thrills have happened for me today – I got an honorary degree and before I got on stage, I got to talk to Da’Sean Butler,” he said, also congratulating the basketball and football teams for their outstanding graduation rates.

“One of the things that I learned today that I did not know, which makes me admire you even more is – according to the president, and I know he’s got his facts right – the West Virginia men’s basketball team ranks in the top 10 in America in percentage of its players who got degrees and every senior on the football team is getting a degree,” Clinton said.

Eberly Dean Rudolph Almasy, University President James P. Clements and senior and former Student Government Association President Jason Parsons introduced Clinton and congratulated graduates.

“President Clinton’s tireless and effective humanitarian work is inspiring, and truly embodies the concepts of lifelong learning and service that our land-grant University cultivates,” Clements said.

Throughout the weekend, an estimated 4,000 students graduated at 16 ceremonies. Each school and college held their own personalized ceremony.

In addition to Clinton, two other honorary degrees were awarded: former WVU interim President C. Peter Magrath was awarded a doctorate of law, and renowned School of Nursing alumnae Diana Mason was awarded a doctorate of science.

NBA Basketball star and former Mountaineer Jerry West spoke to graduates at the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences.

“Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way,” West said. “I discovered that I was more strong-willed and more disciplined than I had suspected. I also found out that I had friends whose values were truly above riches.”

West was also privileged to hand his son, Jonnie – a member of the Final Four men’s basketball team, his diploma.

Each ceremony was webcast and will be archived and posted to for later viewing.

By Colleen DeHart
Communications Specialist
WVU News & Information



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