The former Fort Drum commanding general advised new graduates of Jefferson Community College to be leaders in their communities.
America needs leaders they can look up to, said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley. You must become and be that leader.
He also called on graduates to be optimistic about Americas future.
Too many people think we are failing, Gen. Freakley said. Look at you. We are succeeding.
Gen. Freakley served as the posts commanding general from August 2005 to April 2007. During that time, he led the 10th Mountain Division on a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.
He also pushed students to be lifelong learners, discover their passions and serve others.
Youre not entitled to anything but the freedoms that this country allows you to have, Gen. Freakley said. The rest is hard work. Hard work pays off.
The colleges class of 2012 is composed of 671 students who received a total of 687 degrees. Nearly 35 percent of the graduates are adult learners, age 25 or older. About 42 percent of the graduates are active-duty soldiers and their family members, veterans, retirees or Army Reserve members.
The class of 2012 includes the first graduates of JCCs renewable energy management, sports management and physical education programs.
The ceremony also featured a small recognition for four students of Keuka College, who received their Bachelor of Science degrees in criminal justice through a program that included one evening per week on the JCC campus.
Katie C. Norstrud, Watertown, and Veltris V. Patterson, Fort Drum, were chosen by SUNY to receive the 2012 Chancellors Award for Student Excellence.
Michael D. Fager, East Syracuse, and Chelsea R. Monroe, Watertown, were recognized as members of the All-New York Academic Team for Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for community colleges.
Seven students were identified for completing the colleges honors program, and five faculty and staff members were named recipients of the SUNY Chancellors Awards for Excellence.
The student commencement speaker was Ms. Monroe, an Honors Program candidate and member of the schools softball team who moonlighted as the announcer for mens and womens home basketball games.
Ms. Monroes speech focused on the discovery of lifes passion and the creation of identity.