As Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture- Rural Development’s Business and Cooperative Programs, I travel throughout the country, promoting the President’s and Secretary’s vision of revitalizing rural America. Of the many talks that I have given this year, one of the most exciting and memorable moments for me occurred on Saturday, May 14, 2011, when I had the honor and privilege of giving two commencement speeches to graduating classes totaling 500 students at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) in Laredo, Texas.
As a native of south Texas, you can imagine how excited I was to have this opportunity to share my educational roots and professional experiences with these inspiring new graduates. Many of these students are the first in their families to graduate from college; therefore, the experience was not only a major accomplishment for the graduates but a monumental achievement for their families who were present at this event. So, as I shook the hands of each of the graduates as they came up on stage to receive their diplomas, I couldn’t help but think to myself how very proud I was of these students and their families.
Texas A&M International University is a phenomenal school that has experienced tremendous success over a relatively short time. From its inception in 1993 to the present day, TAMIU has grown from a small institution that taught a few education and business classes into a University that serves nearly 7,000 students. The campus is located on the U.S./Mexico border and serves as a cultural and intellectual hub for a vibrant bicultural community. The historic city of Laredo attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and plays an important role in international trade between the United States and Mexico.
In closing, I want to thank the faculty and staff of Texas A&M International University for honoring me as their guest speaker and for their hospitality. I also want to thank the city’s business and civic leaders for their vision, dedication, and leadership to the Laredo community. Most of all, I want to congratulate the graduating class of 2011 and wish them the best in all of their endeavors.