Duncan urges MC grads: Serve others
By Matthew Stewart (email@example.com)
A U.S. representative Sunday spoke to Maryville College’s class of 2011 about hard work, perseverance, humility, service and most importantly, empathy.
Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., has represented the 2nd District since 1988. He currently serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he serves as chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Natural Resources, which retains jurisdiction over national parks and natural resources.’
During the ceremony, the congressman was also presented with an honorary Doctor of Law.
He later congratulated his “fellow degree recipients” and their families for their accomplishments.
Duncan, who’s a lifelong Presbyterian, said he has several connections with Maryville College, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
His grandmother even attended the institution in the early 20th century. “I don’t believe she graduated, but she received enough education to teach in Scott County for 40 years.”
Duncan later talked about Brooks Robinson, who played with the Baltimore Orioles for 23 years.
The baseball player used to tell people that few athletes make teams due solely to their skill. “Most of them had the dedication, desire and discipline to work when they didn’t want to do it.”
The common trait among successful people is perseverance, Duncan said. “Everybody gets knocked down. Everybody gets their feelings hurt. It’s an important lesson.”
He later talked about the college’s scripture reading: Micah 6:6-8. “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
The congressman told audience members that it was favorite biblical passage. “I’m not a theologian, but it seems to sum up the whole Bible.”
He also stressed justice, kindness and humility. “If we’re able to achieve good, or great, things, it comes from the gifts of a great God and not our own meager talents.”
Duncan later talked about Frank Deford, who’s a six-time U.S. Sportswriter of the Year winner.
Deford’s daughter, Alexandra, was 8 years old when she died in 1980 following a battle with cystic fibrosis. The congressman then recounted a story from the sportswriter’s book.
Deford asked his daughter what she wanted to be when she grew, he said. The girl told her father that she wanted to be a princess.
“It instantly brought a lump to his throat, because he already thought of her as a princess,” Duncan said. Deford’s daughter later told him that she didn’t want to be a princess, because people would try to knock her crown off.
“After she said it, she laughed as if she’d told a joke. However, isn’t that we do so often in our lives? I’m not trying to be pessimistic. In life, there’s far more good times than bad. However, you need to work on your faith in the good times for when it becomes bad,” he said.
Duncan later encouraged students to “put crowns” on people. “Don’t be critical or tear down people. I know you were taught to be critical and skeptical. That’s good to a certain point.”
The congressman also advised students to help mankind. “So often, we’re isolated in front of our television or computer screens. Please tear yourselves away from those screens and help a real live person.”
During commencement, five faculty and staff members were also recognized for their outstanding service during the 2010-11 academic year.
The Outstanding Teacher Award, the recipient of which is nominated by the college’s juniors and seniors, went to Dr. Daniel Klingensmith, associate professor of history.
Dr. Sam Overstreet, professor of English, was recognized as the award’s runner-up.
Sheree O’Connor, executive assistant for student development, received the Nancy B. Hunter Outstanding Staff Award. Holly Jackson-Sullivan, vice president for advancement and community relations, won the Martha Hess Outstanding Administrator Award.
Tobby Ryan, network technician, was named the winner of the Sharon A. Murphy Crane Distinguished Service Award.