BETHANY - In an outdoor ceremony which quickly ended with a sudden hailstorm Saturday, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge told the 138 members of the Bethany College Class of 2014 that their generation has already begun to change the world.
"People are paying very close attention to you," Ridge said. "Why is that? Because they know you represent change. I encourage you to not be afraid of change. Embrace it. Cause it. Change is nothing to fear. Without change there is no progress. Without progress we don't build a better world."
In Ridge's address to the 138 graduates, "What Netflix Won't Teach You," as part of the college's 174th Anniversary Commencement Weekend, he encouraged the class to stay strong in their beliefs and to make things happen as they go forth into their lives post-graduation.
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge speaks to the 2014 Bethany College graduating class at the 174th commencement ceremony.
"The world has already formed an opinion about you," Ridge said. "Sadly, before you have entered the world of work, opinion-makers who don't know you have made conclusions about you. You see, you're those millennials. You're supposed to be unmotivated, self-centered and soft. Let me say, on your behalf, they are dead wrong."
Ridge told the graduates the ability to see what the world needs and make it happen is an American tradition. He advised the class to develop good habits, be righteous yet respectful of other views, and to speak up for themselves and others.
"The generation in charge is responsible to effect change that nurtures and creates a better tomorrow and you and your generation have far more tomorrows than your parents, your professors and far more tomorrows than your commencement speaker," Ridge said. "In time, I think we have fallen short of giving you better days. Fortunately, you have a chance to fix it and that's what's so exciting.
You will learn more, do more and invent more than any generation before. All you have to do is combine you passion with vision. It's that simple. It's also that important."
During the ceremony, Ridge was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Bethany College President Scott D. Miller. Ridge served as Pennsylvania's 43rd governor from 1995 to 2001. Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he became the first Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and in 2003, became the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Ridge is currently CEO of Ridge Global, LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based security consulting firm. Ridge served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1983 to 1995. He grew up in Erie, Pa. before attending Harvard University. After his first year at Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam. After returning to Pennsylvania and to Dickinson, he earned his law degree and was in private practice before becoming assistant district attorney in Erie County.
Receiving the Oreon E. Scott Award, given annually to the senior graduating with the highest academic standing, was Cameron Avery Cooper from Hurricane, W.Va. Cooper graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree. Cooper also received the W.F. Kennedy Prize, the Business Award, the Korb Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and the Forrest H. Kirkpatrick Award.
In addition, the Rev. Gary W. Kidwell, president of the Christian Church Foundation in Indianapolis, Ind., was presented with an honorary Doctor of Divinity during the ceremony.
The graduating class all received their diplomas before a sudden storm caused graduates and guests to seek cover from the hail and rain.