By Tim Ellsworth
Associate VP for Communications, Union University
JACKSON — Sen. Bob Corker in his Dec. 17 commencement address advised Union University graduates to master a skill, to create a bold vision in their undertakings and to give back to their communities.
“You don’t have to be a United States Senator or a mayor or in any other elected position to give back to others,” Corker said. “There’s nothing in life from a secular standpoint that makes you feel more whole as a human being than to know that a portion of what you’re doing is enhancing someone else’s life.”
Corker was the keynote speaker during the first of two fall commencement exercises of the 192nd graduating class at West Jackson Baptist Church, where 302 Union students received their degrees. The morning ceremony was for undergraduate students, while the afternoon was for graduate and adult studies students.
Union Provost C. Ben Mitchell delivered the address at the afternoon service.
Union President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said commencement is a fitting celebration for the university as it sends its graduates out for service and leadership in the world.
“It is a time to reflect upon the power of the relationships that have had such a transformative effect during their time here,” Oliver said. “And it is a time to look with hope to the future.”
Corker was elected by Tennessee to the U.S. Senate in 2006. He serves as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and is a member of the Banking Committee and Budget Committee. He previously served as mayor of Chattanooga but spent most of his life in business.
Corker said he was happy to be involved in the Union ceremony.
“Multiple times I’ve seen the university with excitement over having someone like Dub and his family here to lead this great institution,” he said. “But I’ve also been here during times of crisis and seen how this great student body and all of the citizens of this community and supporters came together to rally after the tornadoes and the devastation that created.”
He told graduates that one of the best ways they could be successful as they launch into the future is to master a skill and become indispensable at what they do – by being the first person to work and being the most energized by what their organization is doing or what they are doing personally.
He also encouraged graduates to dream big and to have a bold vision for what they can accomplish.
“If you have a bold vision about what you do in life or the task that you undertake, even if you just get 80 percent of the way done, you’ve done so much more than if your vision is small,” Corker said.
He cited statistics indicating that 27 million people in the world are enslaved – the largest number in world history. Ending that practice is an example of a bold goal that is worthy of undertaking, Corker said.
Corker’s desire to give back stemmed from his study of the Scriptures that began in earnest when he was 28 years old. He had already been successful in business at that point, and he wanted to discover what else he could do to have a meaningful life. For years, he said he woke at 4 a.m. and devoured the Bible in his search for answers.
One of his favorite passages is in Genesis 12, where God tells the Hebrew people that he blessed them so they could be a blessing to others. Corker said those words propelled him into public and community service, and he challenged graduates to be generous in their own efforts at helping others.
“My sense is that each of you is going to have impacts on your community and world that you never imagined,” he said.