Appearing before graduates, their friends and families, and many others from the Lee community, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke challenged graduates to "make a difference" during Saturday’s commencement held in the Lee University Conn Center.
“Mayor Berke has shown us how important it is for people from different perspectives to bring our common faith and deepest human values to the table to make this a better world that better serves every person in it,” said Lee President Paul Conn, in his introduction of the mayor.
In his address to the group, Berke encouraged the graduates to take the unique perspective they have gained at Lee into the communities which they will live and make a significant impact on those communities and the people in them.
"No matter where you go, you will be uniquely qualified to enter this world,” said Berke. “Not just because of the excellent education earned here [at Lee] or the fact you have a college degree; no, the 21st Century demands talent, and it’s the unique perspective that you bring from being at Lee that makes you so qualified for this world.”
As the grandson of a local lawyer, Berke grew up in a family devoted to helping others and giving back to the community of Chattanooga. Elected to the State Senate in 2007 and re-elected to a second term in 2008. He was elected Mayor of Chattanooga in March 2013 with over 72 percent of the electoral vote. Since being elected, unemployment has dropped more than two percent and over 6,157 new jobs have come to the Chattanooga region. Berke has also led the city to partner with the White House and area nonprofits to end chronic veteran homelessness by the end of 2016.
Over 180 degrees were conferred at Saturday’s graduation, 50 of which were for graduate studies. This is one of three graduation weekends at Lee each year; commencements are also held in May and December.
Saturday's ceremony was preceded by a hooding for students earning master's degrees and a Commissioning Service on Friday night, which featured six student speakers sharing their “Lee experience.”
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