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U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige Delivers UConn Commencement Address
(Released: 05/19/01)

By Sherry Fisher, Office of University Communications

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STORRS, Conn. -- U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige urged support for President George W. Bush's proposed educational reforms during his address at the University of Connecticut's 118th commencement ceremonies.

More than 3,200 students were awarded undergraduate degrees during twin ceremonies held in the morning and afternoon at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.

Paige said Bush has made education the priority for his administration and urged the graduates to support his efforts.

"The president's plan to reform education in America was the first proposal put before the Congress. The president is deadly serious about this goal and he solicits your cooperation and all Americans' cooperation, because this is indeed a goal that has an impact for all of us."

He compared Bush's education plan to President Kennedy's goal, announced 40 years ago, of sending humans to the moon by the end of the 1960s.

"President Kennedy adopted the goal of putting a person on the moon and returning him safely. President Johnson adopted the goal of the Great Society. WHen we put this president's goal - no child left behind - [beside] those goals...putting a person on the moon and returning him safely may be a piece of cake."

In other remarks, Paige described the university faculty as heroes.

"Your tireless efforts will be held dear for many years to come," he said. "I still remember with great affection, the teachers and professors and coaches that provided me with the inspiration that I now have. They are now, and will forever, be heroes for me."

The university faculty, he said, will be heroes "for the graduates of today."

Paige told students to show the world what they have learned at the Univeristy.

"If you meet a person who is not familiar with this great university and the quality of the education here, show them that you confront challenges and that you care about yourself," he said.

"Show them that yu care about yourself mentally and spiritually. Show them that you care about your body physically. Show them a person who is a life-long learner. In other words, show them a typical UConn graduate."

Acknowledging the families, friends and supporters of the graduates, Paige said "How proud you are and how proud you should be. We understand your feeling today. We know you've been waiting to exhale for some time. And so, you can now take a big sigh of relief. It has actually happened and you are to be congratulated."

He encouraged the graduates to use their education to help others.

"You are the salt of the earth. Your knowledge and wisdom to sustain the people of your family and your neighborhood is clearly there. Use the gift you've been given and the light of education to cut through the darkness of ignorance," Paige said.

Paige was superintendent of schools in Houston, Texas from 1994 until assuming the highest education post in the nation in January. He served for a decade as dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, where he established the university's Center for Excellence in Urban Education, a research facility that concentrates on issues related to instruction and management in urban school systems.

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