Georgia Gwinnett College graduates charged to appreciate time, find purpose

Commencement wide shot


On a day when graduating seniors were thanking God, family and friends, Poet Laureate Hank Stewart challenged more than 660 graduates to thank the “haters.” Stewart, who spoke at Georgia Gwinnett College’s spring commencement said that sometimes, one’s haters are the inspiration.  

“Some of you wouldn't be here today and wouldn't have accomplished this awesome task in your life if it wasn’t for the haters,” he said. “They made you get up and study because you wanted to prove them wrong.”

That was just one of the pieces of advice that Stewart shared. In a spirited keynote address, the poet laureate spoke of the importance of self-care, choosing friends wisely, moving forward, working hard and, most importantly, appreciating time.  

“Graduates, you have more days in front of you than behind you,” Stewart said. “Don’t let anyone waste your time. Stop waiting to enjoy special occasions. Your most valuable asset is not your house, your car, your financial portfolio – it’s your time.”

Before they arrived at GGC, graduate speaker Eric Thomas Jr. spent years of their time trying to find their purpose. During what they called their path through “trial and error,” Thomas, who identifies with the pronouns they/their/them, transitioned into and out of various jobs until they found their path at GGC. 

In their speech, they challenged graduates to question their path to their destination, be open to life’s lessons and to embrace change.

“I want all of you to apply the question, ‘Why am I doing this?’ to everything you do – whether it's a job, a hobby, a relationship, a video game, a vacation, raising kids, taking care of loved ones, or literally anything else,” Thomas said. “Surely the answer will lead you in the right direction.”

In her address to graduates, President Jann L. Joseph congratulated graduates and recognized Thomas, along with students Ruby Hernandez and Autumn Musgrave Burgess, both of whom persevered through difficult circumstances to successfully earn their degrees.

Calling the Class of 2022 “warriors,” Joseph praised the graduates who persevered beyond their own challenges and uncertainties to complete their education.

Finally, Joseph concluded her remarks recalling a letter written by the parent of graduating student Ifeanyi Aniekwe. Aniekwe’s mother thanked the college for its quality education and contributions to her son’s education. Aniekwe will continue his studies at Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

“These are a few of the stories of why GGC exists and of our purpose in Gwinnett County,” said Joseph. “We take pride in changing the lives of not only our students, but the lives of their families for generations to come.”

Watch commencement.

View and download spring 2022 commencement photos.

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