Below are Governor Terry McAuliffe's prepared remarks from the 2014 Charter Day ceremony -- Ed.
Students, faculty, distinguished guests – it is a privilege to be here today.
This is my first appearance on a college campus as the 72nd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and it seems fitting that I should start here – where higher education in America began.
I want to thank President Reveley for presenting me with this honorary degree, as well as Rector Todd Stottlemyer for giving me the opportunity to celebrate the founding of this incredible institution with you.
I would also like to congratulate Professor David Lutzer, a true leader in the field of mathematics for his receipt of an honorary degree from William & Mary.
And to all of today’s recipients -- congratulations.
As I begin, let me take a moment to recognize your Chancellor, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
During his more than 30 years in public service, Chancellor Gates served under both Democrats and Republicans. He rose to the highest ranks of government, first as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and later as our nation’s Secretary of Defense.
Chancellor Gates, thank you for your service. You are an example of why bipartisanship is so important, and you truly embody the excellence that the College instills in its students.
And what a College it is. As the second-oldest in the country, the College of William & Mary was established when Virginia was still a colony and America was simply a dream. And during that long history, you have built -- and more importantly sustained – a reputation for being one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.
Graduates include U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler – who all walked these halls before leading our great nation.
With more than 30 governors, 40 members of Congress, two Speakers of the House, our current FBI Director and one “Daily Show” host, I can understand why William & Mary is called the Alma Mater of our nation.
In fact, William & Mary has a strong presence in my own administration. I am proud to say that there are more graduates in my cabinet from this College than any other institution, including my Chief of Staff Paul Reagan, who is here with me today.
With tomorrow being the 321st anniversary of King William and Queen Mary issuing a royal charter officially founding the College, I thought it would be fitting to outline what makes this institution so special.
It’s not just its notable graduates – although that list is impressive.
It’s the College’s commitment to public service and community engagement that sets it apart. William & Mary is not an institution that rests on its laurels or is satisfied with celebrating only its past. It is a place that constantly grows and renews itself.
A recent report by the Aspen Institute and Washington Monthly noted that William & Mary is the country’s top university for fostering careers in public service. And it consistently ranks as one of nation’s leading producers of Peace Corps volunteers.
In fact, William & Mary students engage in more than 333,000 hours of service work per year. Because you understand that by giving back to your community, you become better citizens and better leaders.
You also understand that providing access to high-quality education is beneficial to every member of society -- that is why the William & Mary Promise is so important.
Launched last April, this new initiative seeks to make the costs of college more predictable, while at the same time ensuring that William & Mary maintains its distinctive “public ivy” reputation.
By providing tuition guarantees for in-state students, increased affordability for middle-class families, additional slots for Virginia undergraduates and more resources to maintain excellent faculty, the William & Mary Promise will help ensure that more students have greater access to this unique College.
This public-private partnership should serve as a model to universities around the country. It shows that by working together we can make high-quality education more affordable and costs more predictable for all Virginia families.
The William & Mary Promise is a testament to the innovative spirit of the College’s leadership and your determination to extend the benefits of higher education to all Virginians.
President Reveley, Rector Stottlemyer – thank you for your leadership.
For Virginia to grow and to realize the full potential of all of our people, excellence must not be confined to our four year institutions of higher education. We must also insist on excellence at every level of our education process.
That is why I have placed such a strong focus on community colleges. I am the first Virginia governor to have visited all 23 community colleges in the Commonwealth.
We must also work with state and local governments, as well as the private sector and faith communities, to expand access to Pre-K education. Research has shown that the first few years of a child’s education is critical to their future success, and no child should fall behind because of circumstances outside their control.
Your parents’ zip code or financial circumstances should not dictate your future.
Everyone deserves access to a quality education. And that means studying in schools that place a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health care fields. It is the only way Virginia businesses are going to stay globally competitive.
And in order to attract the best and the brightest, it is important to keep Virginia open and welcoming to those who call the Commonwealth home.
That is why on my first day in office I signed Executive Order Number 1, which prohibits discrimination in state government based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
It is also why I believe that those who have been brought to this country at a young age, who have grown up here, and who have stayed out of trouble, should absolutely have the same opportunities to get a good education as everyone else.
And although the legislation is currently stalled, I hope that during my term, I have the opportunity to sign into law the Virginia DREAM Act.
Through all of these efforts -- expanding access to pre-k, STEM programs and community colleges, making Virginia more open to all and continuing to focus on ensuring universities like William & Mary are more affordable -- entire communities will benefit.
For example, just last week in Martinsville, I announced that Kilgour Industries, a UK-based supplier of aircraft and engine machine products, will invest $27.3 million in its first U.S. operation in Henry County.
This will create 155 new local jobs in one of our most economically hard-hit areas of the Commonwealth. And according to Kilgour executives, one of the main reasons they chose to open a facility in Virginia (we beat out four other states) was because of the educational training programs within the area.
Nothing is more important to our ability to create jobs than a smart, well-trained workforce. And increasing access to higher-education is critical to that success.
That is why I am pleased to announce today that Charles Steger, the President of Virginia Tech; Jeff Trammell, the former Rector here at William & Mary and a proud alumnus; Leonard Sandridge, who is an adviser to the University of Virginia, Eva Hardy, who has served on numerous education boards and Congressman Bobby Scott’s Chief of Staff Joni Ivey will join the Virginia Commission on Higher Education Board Appointments.
Each of these Virginia leaders is committed to seeking excellence in education and I know they will play an important role in strengthening Virginia’s world-class university system.
Higher education is critical to our future, and we need to view it as an investment, not as an expense.
Every dollar we spend annually on higher education adds more than $17 to our state's GDP and returns more than a dollar to the state treasury.
We must maintain our momentum in higher education so that our young people and their families can afford it, so that our state economy will benefit from it and so that we will be a magnet for the innovators and entrepreneurs who will invent the future.
And that is why I am so honored to be here today: To celebrate the founding of such an incredible institution with students who understand the benefits of both hard work and community engagement, and who believe that our society is better served when we all work together.
You are our nation’s future leaders. And you have had the privilege of attending one of the most elite universities in the country.
But with that privilege comes increased responsibility. And on this Charter Day, I urge all of you to continue to serve – whether that be a career in public service or volunteering when you have free time.
And there is no better way to honor this great university than by using your time and your energy to create stronger, more prosperous communities around you.
As I conclude my remarks, I’ll offer just one piece of advice. Do what you love. Take chances.
Some of you may have heard this story before, but when I was 14 years old, I knew that I would have to help pay for my own college. I started a business paving neighborhood driveways.
After a few residential jobs, I needed to expand and I needed to move up to a real truck. So I asked my uncle Billy if I could have one of his old dairy trucks. The one we ended up finding was old and rusted but we cleaned it up and turned the key. I still get goosebumps when I think of that engine roaring to life.
My business was a success. I took a chance as a young kid and it worked out.
But remember – there are times you are going to fail.
I ran for governor four years ago and was beaten badly. But I got out of bed the next day and I tried again -- and that is why I’m standing here today.
As I tell my five children: You’re going to get knocked down sometimes, all that matters is that you get back up.
Don’t be a passenger in your own life story. Dream big and be bold. I know you can do it.
Thank you, and go Tribe!