Honors program merit scholar and forensic science major Ashley Maclin smiles at friends and family in the audience during Albany State University’s commencement exercises at the Albany Civic Center Saturday.
ALBANY, Ga. -- New graduates should look to rural areas as places to contribute to their community, build their careers and assume leadership roles, said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
After an introduction from U.S. Representative Stanford Bishop D-Albany, characterized as the "agriculture congressman" by Albany State President Everette Freeman, Vilsack spoke to the graduating class of 2012 Saturday in the Civic Center.
"If you are looking for the secret to life to happiness and fulfillment," Vilsack said, "think about the things you do when time doesn't matter while you are doing them. That is a simple tool for a fulfilled life."
The migration of people from rural communities to cities and suburbs is a fact of American history. Vilsack said that with the opportunities in rural areas now available students should consider returning to the country that needs them.
"It may not be where all the money is," Vilsack said, "but it is a place where you can make a difference and become important in people's lives."
Vilsack added that rural America needs successful business school graduates, social workers, nurses, health care practitioners and administrators and teachers to not only survive but thrive.
Pointing out that the agricultural economy is on an upswing every day with new products such as Coca-Cola bottles that are composed of 30 percent organic material, Vilsack said, the opportunities for graduates are also expanding.
"You can reinvigorate rural areas with your creativity, hard work and success. You have the opportunity to change the lives of people across the country," Vilsack said. "When you find your place, I hope you find it in rural America. No place needs you more."
Students leaving the ceremonies agreed with Vilsack. Two saw their careers beginning and prospering in Southwest Georgia.
Oscar Morris, a management major from Atlanta, said he has learned to appreciate the rural area as a career opportunity.
"The need for skilled and knowledgeable people in rural areas is a major issue," Morris said. "But if you put forth the effort you can do well in a rural area."
Health care management graduate, Rasheeta Jackson, said she works in an East Albany physician's office and knows the challenges facing rural residents.
"Many don't have insurance," Jackson said. "People in a small community need more help than those in larger communities."