TROY - One of the state's top education leaders challenged Troy University graduates to work together, press through hardships and take opportunities during fall commencement exercises in Trojan Arena on Friday.
Randy McKinney, an attorney from Gulf Shores who is vice-chairman of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, offered the keynote remarks to more than 650 graduates participating in the ceremony.
"I submit to you that we have to do our part. It's really not optional . . . you have a responsibility and a duty to do your part," he said. "If we don't, we won't fly as far as fast."
A private pilot, McKinney had related a story about losing "an engine on a single-engine airplane." He said it was the first time he had been cleared to land on any runway in any direction as he glided the plane to safe landing.
"There are lots of moving pieces and parts on an airplane, but just one cylinder broke - and an airplane doesn't fly without oil. I was done. I knew I was going to land, I just didn't know where," he said. "Just one piece of the puzzle didn't fit and the whole plane couldn't do its job."
Reading from Dr. D.H. Groberg's poem "The Race," McKinney encouraged graduates to "get up when you fall."
"There are so many times we are going to fail, going to mess up, going to bust our chops. The key is to keep getting up," he said. "Education can change your life and open doors to things you can do to make a positive difference in the lives of others - make a positive difference on those around you . . . and learn from your mistakes."
McKinney finished his remarks by challenging graduates to make the most of their "dash."
"You have an opportunity today to do something with your dash," he said, referencing the poem by Linda Ellis. "You have an opportunity to make a positive difference in your life and the lives of the people around you. Make good choices."