The importance of purpose, service, integrity, and sacrifice were among the themes of speeches delivered to Georgia Gwinnett College’s graduating students during its Dec. 1 fall commencement ceremony.
Commencement keynote speaker Antonio Molina knows a thing or two about sacrifice. When he was just six years old, his family fled a civil war in El Salvador and emigrated to America. With “barely a penny to our name,” he said his family lived in a one-bedroom apartment and feasted most nights on arroz, frijoles and queso y crema. Although they were short on money, Molina shared during his speech that his family was long on dreams, determination and the hope of a new life in a new land.
From sacrifice came service. Shortly after he graduated from high school, Molina enlisted in the U.S. Navy, shortly before 9/11. He served for six years and was deployed five times as part of Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
“Nothing can teach you perspective and discipline, build character, or mold you like placing your life on the line to support and defend the United States of America,” he said to the audience of graduating students and their families.
Today, Molina is a junior partner in a Norcross law firm and is deeply rooted in service to his community.
Like many of the students in the audience, Molina said he knew that the “road has not been easy.” But each life experience shaped the 6-year-old boy who came to America into the leader he is today — one who has found his strength through what he called his “key objectives,” of service, purpose, integrity and humility, as well as relaxation — the ability to take a breath.
“If you master these key objectives, I am sure you will also succeed in whatever you set your mind to achieve,” he said.
Stories of sacrifice, service, purpose inspire Georgia Gwinnett College students at commencement (Special Photos)
Like Molina, commencement student speaker Geana Joie Angus came to America seeking a new life. The Jamaican native traveled to America with her mother and brother and remained in the U.S., when her family decided to move back home. Navigating her studies at GGC, while working three jobs and doing so during a global pandemic was difficult, but Angus credited her family, friends and GGC for providing the support to get her through.
Using the phrase, “in all things be complete,” Angus advised her fellow graduates to follow through on commitments, to try something new and to lean in on each other.
“We have completed this great educational journey, and we now begin another,” she said.
Along with Angus and Molina, graduates heard well wishes from other commencement speakers including Tom Willard, chair of GGC’s Alumni Association board.
More than 525 students graduated at the event.