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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 17, 2003

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at 204th Commencement of Georgetown University, School of Nursing and Health Studies
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

Thank you for the warm welcome. Thank you, President DeGioia, Dean Keltner, distinguished faculty and alumni of Georgetown University and the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Welcome parents, family members, guests and, especially the class of 2003. I bet when you were dissecting cats in Dr. Angerio's class four years ago, you never thought this day would come. After grading some of your papers, he probably didn't either.

Today marks the culmination of many years of determination and hard work - many years of sleep-deprivation, take-out, doing your own laundry and circling this campus for a parking spot. Congratulations to all of you - now it's time to get a job and pay those parking tickets. Congratulations especially to the parents. Many of you have written your last tuition check. That must be nice. President Bush and I are still writing them.

Today is a day you have imagined for your sons and daughters since they were born. You've worked hard to send them to one of the top universities in the country - and their graduation is an affirmation of your support. These graduates will show their appreciation throughout their lives as they work to improve their communities and the world. But graduates, there is no better time than now to thank your parents, family, and teachers whose hard work has brought you to this day - so I invite you to give them a big round of applause.

Today is bittersweet for parents. You are proud, yet anxious - unsure of what the world holds for your children - and what an empty nest holds for you. Author Erma Bombeck put it best when she said, "Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After twenty-two years of child-rearing, they are unemployed."

I remember the day our girls graduated from high school and headed off to college. They say parents often have to get out of the house when their kids leave because it gets lonely. Everyone deals with it in different ways. But I told George I thought running for President was a little extreme.

Congratulations to the faculty of the School of Nursing and Health Studies. You've done a wonderful job of shaping the minds and talents of this class. Thank you also for the honorary degree you're conferring upon me today. I am thrilled to become a member of the Georgetown family. I just hope no one calls me Dr. Laura.

Class of 2003, thanks to your parents and teachers, you've received one of the finest educations in the world. And you've chosen one of the most noble of professions. As a Jesuit university, Georgetown's tradition of social teaching inspires you to respect and cherish life, to love and serve your neighbor, and to use faith and service to others as guiding principles.

You entered this university as individuals and today, you leave as part of a larger family. You have experienced success and failure, saving GUS and sometimes - not. Here at Georgetown, on the second floor of Lauinger Library, on the Levy Esplanade - at the Tombs and the Waterfront - you have learned the concepts and skills that will guide you in your careers. But more importantly, you have learned who you are and who you want to be. A Georgetown degree is impressive - but the true value of your education is not in a piece of paper - it is in the person you have become.

Universities are often measured by what students become. Here, the measure is who students become. And you have become compassionate and skilled adults who are putting service at the forefront of your lives. Today, you will no longer hope to be nurses, scientists, and health care professionals - you already are. Throughout the world patients wait for the comfort of your care - cures wait to be discovered - and sound policy waits to be enacted. America will need one million nurses by the year 2010.

But the health care professionals of the future will be expected to do more - you must be reformers, politicians, advocates, and mediators. Our country faces many challenges - nursing shortages, rising healthcare costs and evolving technology. But the skills and values you've gained here - leadership, a continual quest for knowledge, and a commitment to service - will prepare you to meet these challenges. Remember too what has driven you in the past four years - to improve the health and well-being of all people. This mission has also inspired you to perform more hours of service than any other school at Georgetown. You don't simply talk service - you live it.

Dorothy Fink lives service. As a volunteer at the Lombardi Cancer Center, she worked with a young leukemia patient named Brittany. She held her hand during chemotherapy and talked to her when she was discouraged. They became friends. Brittany taught Dorothy the importance of treating the whole patient rather than just the disease. And Dorothy showed Brittany that there are people willing to help you overcome your greatest challenges. Today Brittany is in remission and will graduate from high school in June.

Because of Brittany, Dorothy started a science program for pediatric cancer patients to teach them about medicine. Dorothy created projects like the Science of Soda where kids make secret potions. Dorothy, I know you will continue to make us proud at Georgetown Medical School and someday as a pediatric oncologist.

Since the moment Renee Cherkezian stepped on campus she has worked to create awareness of breast cancer. She passed out shower cards and recruited her rowing team to make cookies for bake sales. During crew races, Renee set up information tables on the Potomac and held raffles to raise nearly 12 thousand dollars for breast cancer initiatives.

Renee used some of the proceeds to buy an examination table for women with disabilities in memory of Professor Sandra Welner. Renee believes that public service is "supporting the community to the best of your ability and empowering others to serve." Renee, you have undoubtedly done this during your time at Georgetown - and I have no doubt you will continue to impress us as a nurse in the intensive care unit.

Like Dorothy and Renee, all of you are inspiring examples of altruism and service. I also try to set an example through my work. And according to some kindergarten students, I do some pretty extraordinary things. They wrote to tell me that they think I help the President with his paper work and help him clean up his office. I take care of him when he is sick and put cold cloths on his head. I feed the dogs and cook carrot soup for dinner. And I shovel the snow and feed the birds.

But the fact is, I get to take part in memorable moments like this and try to pass along any pearls of wisdom. And, of course, a commencement speaker is supposed to give some grand life advice - or issue a call to action to make the world a better place. I don't have to do either for this class - you are the advice I would give to others and you are already making a difference in the world.

But if I could tell one thing, it would be this - Take time for yourself. You have committed yourselves to a demanding profession - one that will tax you physically and emotionally, as well as professionally. And you will not simply be giving at work - marriage, parenting and relationships also require constant attention. All of this giving will leave you exhausted unless you give to yourself as well.

Think about everything you have accomplished in the past four years. Before you leave today, stand on the Hilltop - maybe one last time for some of you - and smile. Appreciate who you have become. Nathaniel Hawthorne said, "Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp - but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

So take time for yourself. Look up at the sky and try to count all of the stars. Laugh out loud in the movie theater. Order a full-fat latte. Say 'So what' when something discouraging happens to you. Jump into the ocean with all your clothes on. Read a book from cover to cover in one afternoon. Appreciate the little things in life and - above all - the people in your life. Say 'I love you' to someone every day - especially to yourself. Love those closest to you and cherish your family and friends. You will face many challenges in life, and you will make mistakes. And these will be the people who will pick you up.

Remember your faith and your commitment to serve God and each other. Your faith and service to others defines your humanity. It is what gives life meaning. You are about to begin one of the most noble and honorable forms of public service. Every one of you has a calling - a calling true to yourself, and true to your aspirations. Answer that calling with the skills and values you've gained here - with leadership, with a continual search for knowledge and with service to others. You've been led by your heart and it will be your compass throughout your career and your life.

It is said that to be happy a person needs just three things: love, purpose and hope. Graduates of the Class of 2003, you have the love of everyone here; you have a purpose to improve the health and well-being of all people; and you have hope that you can make the world a better place. So be happy graduates - go out and fulfill your pledge to care for others and for yourself. Congratulations.


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