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First Lady Laura Bush addresses graduating Vanderbilt seniors

May. 11, 2006, 11:28 AM

Listen to introductory prayers and remarks by Vanderbilt students.

Listen to Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon Gee’s introductory remarks.

Watch video of the event at

Read the full text of Mrs. Bush’s address.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dedication to serving others is the key to happiness and 2006 Vanderbilt University graduates should consider beginning by volunteering on the Gulf Coast before starting their careers, First Lady Laura Bush told seniors gathered as part of Senior Day at Vanderbilt University, one day prior to Commencement.

“The class of 2006 represents the brightest and most talented young people in America,” Mrs. Bush said. “You won’t waste your talent and education if you use them in service to others.”

Mrs. Bush was presented the first Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal, which she accepted on behalf of disaster relief workers around the world. The prize comes with a cash prize of $100,000, which this year will be used to create the Nichols Humanitarian Fund, to be used to fund travel and living expenses for students and faculty who volunteer for disaster relief assignments.

Speaking to approximately 12,500 people gathered on Alumni Lawn, Mrs. Bush also urged graduates to be part of fighting AIDS and HIV in Africa, and suggested service in the Peace Corps or armed forces.

“Will we ignore people around the world living under tyranny, or will we help them be free?” she asked. “Will we look aside as American cities lie in ruin, or will we rebuild a better and more beautiful Gulf Coast?”

The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal was created and endowed by Vanderbilt Law School graduate Ed Nichols and his wife, Janice, in honor of Edward Carmack and Lucile Hamby Nichols, and will recognize those who define the 21st century and exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit. The medal will be presented annually at Vanderbilt’s Senior Class Day.
“As an educator and inspiration for many people, Mrs. Laura Bush is a remarkable woman indeed,” said Chancellor Gordon Gee.

Mrs. Bush noted that she skipped her commencement speaker in 1973 when she graduated from the University of Texas.

“It was some guy named George Bush,” she said. “Four years later I married his son.”

Vanderbilt will bestow degrees to about 1,500 undergraduates and 1,600 graduate and professional students on Friday. A week-long slate of celebratory activities included a dance featuring Kool & the Gang, a series of seminars by faculty on topics including an early look at the 2008 presidential race, and a reception hosted by Gee at which he presented his traditional graduation gift, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.

Audio and video of Mrs. Bush’s speech can be accessed at VUCast, Vanderbilt University’s news network, at

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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