You are part of a tradition that has gone on now for 48 years— the latest and maybe the greatest graduating class produced by the University of the Virgin Islands. And your fellow graduates on the stage today, the professors and educators you've had over the years, all your supporters in the audience, all those relationships forged at UVI will be there with you going forward. You are going into the post-college world as alumni of this wonderful institution of higher learning. The relationships founded here should continue to strengthen, develop and evolve as years go by.
On the UVI campus, you were surrounded by those people day after day, immersed in a network of friendship and academic solidarity that helped you through the difficult moments, and made the good times into memories that will last your lifetime. But remember, the bonds you have formed are enduring, and while those special people will not always be around as often as they were before, they will always be there for you when you need them, as you should be for them.
I know some of you have an airtight plan, knowing exactly where you want to go from here. While that is a blessing, I encourage you to remain flexible. The post-college world is large and uncertain, and it is no shame to find it a bit intimidating. There is inevitably going to be much searching, exploration, and experimentation. Ultimately, you might find yourselves moving in wonderful directions you never thought about, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.
To arrive at this stage in cap and gown, you have put in years of hard work, intense study, and sacrifice. And maybe during the process there was some fun along the way. You worked toward this goal since before you even began your first freshman class, and now it has been achieved. Your final exams have been completed, your classes passed, your papers written, and yet, this ceremony is a beginning. Higher education opens many doors, but walking through them and succeeding beyond them is another journey.
You have been prepared to succeed by this University. The professors, teachers and faculty of UVI have worked hard to help expand your minds, and hopefully have guided your education well. Your fellow students have supported you; and you have supported them. That mutual support will endure as you and your classmates take the first step together on what might become disparate paths. The bonds built in college last a lifetime; the experiences shared in college are unforgettable and will resonate throughout your lives.
The territory faces many challenges, and we need the next generation of bright, energetic, and eager Virgin Islanders to come help us overcome them. No institution has been as important in preparing this territory's public and private-sector leaders like UVI. We need you all to believe it is your turn to assume the mantle of responsibility and start contributing to the greater good, so we can bring in a new era of prosperity that is just over the horizon.
As you work toward personal and professional success, I ask all of you to always consider what is best for your community, for your family, for these islands you call home. By graduating today, you have made so many people proud. Do not forget them as you go forward in your careers. Always remember your duty to those less fortunate and your lifelong obligation to helping make the Virgin Islands a better place.
Whatever path you now follow: launching a career, going off to graduate school, joining the military, you have the tools to succeed. Your education has provided you with options, and having options means making choices. I pray you will all be fortunate enough to make the choices that bring you the most happiness and the most fulfillment, and I wish you the best in all that is to come.