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�Life�s most urgent question is:
what are you doing for others?�

�Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15 1929�April 4 1968
Senator Jim Webb's Commencement Address: Economic Fairness

webbradford4.jpgI am grateful for the opportunity to share in this important milestone in your lives.

I got my first call about being your commencement speaker late last year from Mary Ann Hovis, who is a member of your Board of Visitors. Mary Ann and her husband Bob are good friends, and huge boosters of Radford University. And if there is one thing I have learned over the past year or so, it's that Mary Ann always knows the right place for me to be. So thank you Mary Ann. And here I am.

Today is a day for families and friends, for shared memories of good times here on campus and for that feeling that comes from accomplishing something truly special.

Today, you are all winners, and I congratulate you!
here is another winner in our midst as well. Earlier this year, Dr. Donna Boyd, a professor of anthropology here at Radford University was named United States Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation's Council for the Advancement of Teaching. This is a great distinction not only for Donna Boyd, but also for the entire Radford University community. In the 26-year history of this prestigious award, this is only the fourth time a Virginian has been recognized.

If Dr. Boyd would please stand, I hope you'll all join me in congratulating her for this honor.

I also want to say a special word at the outset of my remarks about all the parents who are here with us. I'm sure that those of you who are graduating know what a very special time this is for your parents. They have worked long and hard, and sacrificed much to bring you to this point. When you remember this day, remember them. And I know that you will never take their love and support for granted.

It's also a time for grandparents. Do we have grandparents here? I was very close to my grandmother. I was also her first grandchild to finish college. She was from east Arkansas but at that time was living in California near one of my aunts. My Dad flew her out this way for the graduation. It was the first time she had ever been inside an airplane. She talked about it the whole time she was here. And then after I graduated, she decided to take the bus back, all the way to California.

Graduation ceremonies are conducted amid a sea of deep emotions. Many of you are sad to be leaving and apprehensive about the future. That's natural. Others have your cars already packed and loaded, and can't wait to get home, or off to your future endeavors. Some parents are excited. Some others are probably sobered by the notion that the sweet, energetic kid they sent away to Radford four years ago is now a young man or woman filled with ideas, independence and attitude - who is moving back home, into what they thought was an empty nest.

Commencement speakers are asked to wade into these conflicting emotions and share a few lasting pearls of wisdom and advice. It is a difficult task. Winston Churchill's advice for public speakers is particularly fitting for me today. Churchill always counseled people to "Be Clear ? Be Concise ? and Be Seated." I will try to follow that advice today.

But at the same time, I don't want to let this day pass without a few sincere and heartfelt pieces of advice.

Most important perhaps, I hope you'll never forget this special corner of Virginia. As Highlanders you have no doubt come to appreciate the mountains and the valleys - and also the people - of Southwest Virginia.
This is perhaps the most pristine and beautiful part of the Commonwealth. What is less obvious to many on the outside is the rich culture and deep values that characterize Southwest Virginia and her people.

My family roots are deep and wide in Southwest Virginia, and I have spent a good bit of time down here over the course of my life. Before I ever decided even to run for the Senate, I wrote about this region and its importance to our American heritage in my book Born Fighting. I am very gratified to say that the writer Tom Wolfe called this book the most important ethnography in recent American history.

The dominant culture among the pioneers who settled these mountains were the Scots-Irish, who had made their way down the Great Wagon Trail that stretched from Lancaster Pennsylvania to northern Georgia and Alabama. They were fiercely independent people who brought with them, along with their strong religious tradition, their bags of seed, their rifles, and perhaps a cow or two, the basic principles that resulted in the creation of what we now call American-style populist democracy. For more than 270 years they have fought our nation's wars, grown its food, hauled its goods in wagons and then in trucks, worked its factories. And wherever they have gone, they have brought with them a dislike of elitism and aristocracy, and a deep respect for the law.

These values survive today in Southwest Virginia.

Three weeks ago, when the eyes of the world were drawn to the horrible events at Virginia Tech, they were on full display.

We saw them in the courage and humanity of the first responders. We saw them in the way the people of Blacksburg, and Montgomery County comforted students ? housed strangers ? and cared for the grieving.
And we saw these Southwest Virginia values right here on the campus of Radford University in the way you reached out to Virginia Tech.

President Kyle, on behalf of our entire state, I want to thank you, and this university community for all you did to help Virginia Tech and its students during last month's tragedy.

As you leave this campus today and for some of you, the region you've called home for at least four years - I'm fully confident that you will bring with you, wherever you may go, the real values that have always characterized Southwest Virginia: love of country, an abiding faith; a sense of service; and a determination to work hard.

And I personally hope that you will embrace another value as well. In the scriptures we are told, "For unto whomsoever much is given, much shall be required." Our country, and indeed our world community, needs you to follow this simple idea now more than ever.

All of you are fortunate to be graduating from a fine state university, in the greatest nation on earth. It is an opportunity that only a handful of people really have. Never forget that.

With the degrees you have earned today, you will have the flexibility to enter a wide range of exciting careers. And if statistics are any guide, you will probably earn a whole lot more money over your lifetime than those who are your exact same age who don't earn a degree.

By your study, you have earned these potential advantages. But as with all of us who have been blessed with such opportunities, it is important to remember that with opportunity and advantage comes responsibility.

Whatever happens in your lives, please make yourselves a promise - that you will always find a way to give something back - through service to your families, to your community, and to your country.
inally, I can't leave this podium without raising an issue that was a principal theme in my campaign last year, and will continue to be a strong focus of my time in the Senate. And that issue is economic fairness.

There are few challenges confronting this nation that are more serious or urgent than the growing sense of unfairness that hangs over our economic affairs. When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries.

When I graduated college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did. Today, that CEO makes nearly 400 times what the average worker makes. That's not right, ladies and gentlemen. It goes against the notion of who we are as a people.

We all want our economy to prosper. But we also want everyone to share in that prosperity. Right now the stock market is at an all time high. Corporate profits continue to soar, and are at the highest percentage of our national wealth in recorded history. But at the same time, wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of those workers is the highest in the world.

Medical costs have skyrocketed, and more and more of our people, particularly in American rural communities live in sub-standard housing.

Our manufacturing base, once the backbone of communities in places like Radford, Martinsville and Pulaski Counties is in many cases being dismantled and shipped overseas. All over the nation, the story is the same.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson - the first President of Scots-Irish descent - established an important principle of American-style democracy - that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street.

As members of the Radford University Class of 2007 find their own unique place in the world, and discover their own way to serve, I would urge you to do everything in your power to recapture the spirit of Andrew Jackson's words.

We can reverse this trend. We need to develop alternative economies to take the place of industries that have slowed or dried up in the age of globalization. We need to ensure that our trade laws are fair and that they safeguard the interests of American workers. And we also need tax incentives that bring our jobs back home and keep other good jobs from going overseas.

The generations that went before us achieved some remarkable things. They populated a wilderness, created a country, gave us American-style democracy, won World War II, and prevailed in the Cold War. They grew our economy until it was the world's largest. They ended racial discrimination.

Your generation's legacy - no smaller a task - should be that you restored basic fairness to the economic affairs of our nation that you fought against the emergence of a class system in our precious democracy and that you rejected the greed that today is all to common in the boardrooms of America's corporations.

I appreciate having been able to share this special day with you, and I wish all of you the very best in what I know will be an exciting future, for each of you individually and for our country.
Thank you.

And God bless you all.

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