- SXSW 2014
A recap of the graduation ceremony and send-off for the class of 2012.
As the tower's bell began to chime, a silence fell across the entire main mall, only to be followed by a roaring applause and cheer when the graduating class of 2012 began to make their way into the graduation ceremony.
Dr. Charles Ramirez-Berg led the grand procession as Marshal of the University. Following him were the distinguished guests, faculty, honorees, and, of course, the graduate candidates. But rounding up the long line of people was the man who is most notably the face of this entire school.
UT President Bill Powers welcomed everyone to the 129th ceremony by merely standing at the podium, and displaying the infamous hand gesture that is the "hook ‘em horns" signal. Powers then greeted his audience, thanked the families, and announced the theme of the night, "unlimited possibilities."
"It was surreal. It was such a happy and sad moment. This night was everything I've ever wanted for my graduation. It depicted everything that Texas is about,” Samantha Hatcher, a corporate communications graduate, said.
Keynote speaker for the evening was former Secretary of Defense and Chancellor of the College of William and Mary, Robert M. Gates. Serving under both President George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Gates is one of the few cabinet members who as served with both the Republican and Democratic Parties. He was chosen based on his range of knowledge with the educational field, government and politics, and overall persona as a leader.
Gates was very honored to be chosen to give the commencement address. He cited Powers as one of the very best university presidents in the United States. A running theme in his speech was that of public service. He suggested to the graduates that they should now give back to the community that has given them so much already. Although it was a genuine sentiment from the former secretary of defense, not everyone was pleased with how this theme kept coming up.
"He was a great speaker and had a lot of good things to say, but he was kind of pushing his opinion a little too much,” Rebecca Marquez, a kinesiology graduate, said. “There were way too much politics in his speech."
Gates only offered a bit of advice, but his speech can be summed up with a quote he used, saying, "There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going."
When all was said and done, the seniors were officially declared as graduates and presented to the community as such. When President Powers made his final remarks and closed the ceremony, "The Eyes of Texas" played and the final hoorah took place in the form of a gigantic firework display.