"GOOD MORNING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND THANK YOU FOR THAT WARM WELCOME.

DR. GEORGE, MEMBERS OF THE FACULTY, FRIENDS AND FAMILY OF OUR GRADUATES, ND MEMBERS OF THE CLASS OF 2006;

LET ME FIRST SAY WHAT A PLEASURE IT IS FOR ME TO RETURN TO THIS CAMPUS.

DR. GEORGE, EVERY TIME I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO COME BACK TO UM-ST. LOUIS, I MARVEL AT WHAT THIS UNIVERSITY HAS BECOME.

TODAY, THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT ST. LOUIS IS NOT ONLY CONTRIBUTING GREAT PEOPLE AND NEW IDEAS TO OUR COMMUNITY AND OUR STATE;

YOU ARE HAVING A MAJOR IMPACT ACROSS THIS COUNTRY,

AND I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU.

GIVE YOURSELVES A ROUND OF APPLAUSE.  (applaud with audience)

TODAY'S CEREMONY IS CALLED  COMMENCEMENT...WHICH MEANS TO "BEGIN".

OF COURSE FOR MOST OF YOU, TODAY IS REALLY ABOUT SURVIVING THE LONG MARCH TO FINISH YOUR DEGREE.

NOW I WANT TO WARN YOU THAT WHEN YOU WALK ACROSS THIS STAGE, THE WORLD WILL OFFICIALLY BRAND YOU AS A SEMI-ADULT.

AND AS NEWLY-DEGREED SEMI-ADULTS, I KNOW THAT YOU'RE STRONG ENOUGH TO HEAR THE TRUTH...

TOMORROW IS GOING TO BE REALLY, REALLY SCARY.

THAT'S RIGHT, SEMI-ADULTHOOD IS ALL ABOUT DEALING WITH NEW FRIGHTENING CHALLENGES. FOR EXAMPLE:

GETTING A REAL JOB;
MAKING A MORTGAGE PAYMENT EACH MONTH;
GETTING MARRIED;
OR EVEN, LOOKING DOWN INTO THE EYES OF YOUR OWN CHILD AND WONDERING WHAT DO I DO NOW?

YOU SEE, DEALING WITH REALITY IS NOT JUST ABOUT FACING YOUR FEARS;

IT'S REALLY ABOUT EMBRACING THEM.

AND TO SHOW YOU THAT I SPEAK FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE;

I WANT TO OPEN UP THE CLAY FAMILY ARCHIVES AND SHARE A LITTLE STORY ABOUT MY OWN COMMENCEMENT, A LONG TIME AGO. ==== LIKE SOME OF YOU, I STARTED OUT MY COLLEGE CAREER ON SCHOLARSHIP.

AND THAT GENEROUS SUPPORT FOR MY EDUCATION CAME FROM AN EXCLUSIVE SPONSOR...

MY DAD, FORMER CONGRESSMAN BILL CLAY.

NOW IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE, I WILL CONFESS TO YOU THAT BEING THE SON OF A POWERFUL CONGRESSMAN DEFINITELY HAD ITS ADVANTAGES.

BUT IT ALSO CAME WITH SOME TOUGH LESSONS.

AND ONE OF THEM WAS THAT IN LIFE, SOME OF OUR WORST FAILURES PREPARE US FOR OUR GREATEST SUCCESSES.

I DID MY UNDERGRADUTE WORK AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND AT COLLEGE PARK.

AND IN THE BEGINNING, I LACKED THE DISCIPLINE TO MAKE THE MOST OF THAT OPPORTUNITY.

SO AFTER A COUPLE OF SEMESTERS, INSTEAD OF FINDING MYSELF ON THE DEAN'S LIST;I FOUND MYSELF ON ACADEMIC PROBATION.

NOW THOSE OF YOU WHO KNOW MY FATHER CAN ATTEST TO THE FACT THAT HE DOES NOT SUFFER FOOLS GLADLY...

ESPECIALLY IF THAT FOOL HAPPENS TO BE NAMED AFTER HIM!

SO HE DECIDED TO SEND ME A MESSAGE BY DOING ME A GREAT FAVOR...

HE CANCELLED MY SCHOLARSHIP.

AND THEN, HE TOLD ME THAT IF I WASN'T GOING TO BE SERIOUS ABOUT COLLEGE, I NEEDED TO GO OUT AND GET A REAL JOB AND PUT MYSELF THROUGH SCHOOL...

WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT I DID.

I WORKED AS AN ASSISTANT DOORKEEPER AT THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DURING THE DAY; AND THEN I WENT BACK TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND TO ATTEND NIGHT CLASSES...

WHICH I PAID FOR MYSELF.

SO WHEN I FINALLY GRADUATED, I ACTUALLY APPRECIATED IT.

BUT BEFORE I HAD THE CHANCE TO BASK IN MY NEW DEGREE,
I WAS PRESENTED WITH A FATEFUL CHOICE, RIGHT AT COMMENCEMENT TIME.

I WAS OFFERED A TERRIFIC JOB IN THE CHANCELLOR'S OFFICE.

IF WAS A WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY.

AND AS A NEW GRADUATE, THE SAFEST, MOST SECURE THING THAT I COULD HAVE DONE WAS TO TAKE THAT JOB.

BUT I DIDN'T.

I CHOSE A MUCH MORE FRIGHTENING OPTION...LAW SCHOOL!

AND IF THAT WASN'T SCARY ENOUGH, ONE MONTH AFTER I STARTED LAW SCHOOL;

BACK HERE IN ST. LOUIS, A WONDERFUL STATE REPRESENTATIVE, THE LATE NAT RIVERS,

DECIDED TO RETIRE FROM THE STATE LEGISLATURE.

AND AS A RESULT, I DECIDED TO EMBRACE THE MOST FRIGHTENING DECISION OF ALL...RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE!

I LEFT LAW SCHOOL, CAME HOME, AND WON A SPECIAL ELECTION TO FILL MR. RIVERS' STATE REP SEAT.

THAT WAS 1983.

I SPENT THE NEXT 17 YEARS SERVING IN BOTH CHAMBERS OF THE MISSOURI LEGISLATURE...

I SERVED SEVEN YEARS IN THE MISSOURI HOUSE, AND TEN YEARS IN THE MISSOURI STATE SENATE.

AND THEN, IN 2000,
I WAS ELECTED TO MY FIRST TERM AS YOUR CONGRESSMAN.

NOW THINK ABOUT THAT CAREER PATH FOR A MINUTE.

SEVENTEEN YEARS IN JEFFERSON CITY?

THAT'S WHAT I CALL REALLY SCARY!
==========

MY POINT IN SHARING THIS LITTLE STORY IS TO SHOW YOU THAT TAKING WHAT APPEARS TO BE THE EASY PATH...IS OFTEN THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO.

SO WHEN YOU GET UP TOMORROW MORNING, I WANT YOU TO REMEMBER THAT DOING WHAT SCARES YOU IS A VERY GOOD IDEA.

DOING WHAT IS HARD, MAKES YOU BETTER.

AND OVERCOMING FEAR IS THE ONLY WAY TO REALLY GET STRONG. ====== SO LET ME SUM UP MY PERSONAL ADVICE TO YOU WITH A LITTLE BIT OF ENLIGHTENMENT FROM A REMARKABLE HUMAN BEING...THE DALAI LAMA.

IN HIS RECENT BOOK ABOUT THE KEYS TO A HAPPY, MEANINGFUL LIFE; HIS HOLINESS OFFERED THIS TEN-POINT CHECKLIST:

"TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT GREAT LOVE AND GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS ALWAYS INVOLVE GREAT RISKS."

"WHEN YOU LOSE, DON'T LOSE THE LESSON."

"ALWAYS FOLLOW THE THREE R'S...RESPECT FOR SELF; RESPECT FOR OTHERS; AND, RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL YOUR ACTIONS."

"REMEMBER THAT NOT GETTING WHAT YOU WANT IS SOMETIMES A WONDERFUL STROKE OF LUCK."

"LEARN THE RULES WELL, SO YOU WILL KNOW HOW TO BREAK THEM PROPERLY."

"OPEN YOUR ARMS TO CHANGE, BUT DON'T LET GO OF YOUR VALUES."

"SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE.
IT'S THE BEST WAY TO ACHIEVE IMMORTALITY."

"JUDGE YOUR SUCCESS BY WHAT YOU HAD TO GIVE UP, IN ORDER TO GET IT."

"A LOVING ATMOSPHERE IN YOUR HOME IS THE TRUE FOUNDATION FOR YOUR LIFE."

"AND FINALLY, APPROACH LOVE AND COOKING WITH RECKLESS ABANDON."

MY FRIENDS, I THINK THAT ABOUT COVERS IT.

AND NOW, IF YOU'LL PERMIT ME TO SHIFT GEARS FOR JUST A FEW MINUTES, I NEED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE MOST URGENT ISSUE FACING OUR NATION...THE WAR IN IRAQ.

WHEN I VISIT A COLLEGE CAMPUS, I FEEL A GREAT RESPONSIBILITY TO GIVE YOU THE FACTS ABOUT THIS WAR, AND TO ASK FOR YOUR HELP IN ENDING IT.

THE PAINFUL TRUTH ABOUT THE WAR IN IRAQ IS CLEAR AND INESCAPABLE:

PRESIDENT BUSH TOOK THIS COUNTRY TO WAR BY CHOICE;
NOT BECAUSE WE HAD TO FIGHT, BUT BECAUSE HE WANTED A FIGHT.

THREE YEARS AGO, I WARNED THE PRESIDENT THAT THE INVASION AND OCCUPATION OF IRAQ WOULD BE A TRAGIC MISTAKE.

I DIDN'T BELIEVE THE SPIN ABOUT WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION.

I DIDN'T BELIEVE THE NONSENSE ABOUT SADDAM'S ALLEGED LINKS TO AL QUEDA AND THE SEPTEMBER 11TH ATTACKS;

I DIDN'T BELIEVE THAT IRAQI OIL REVENUE WOULD PAY FOR THE WAR;

AND I VOTED NO, ON THE FORCE AUTHORIZATION RESOLUTION.

TO DATE, U.S. TAXPAYERS HAVE SPENT ALMOST FOUR HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS IN IRAQ, AND THE METER IS STILL RUNNING.

BUT THERE IS ALSO A MUCH GREATER COST...ONE THAT WE CAN NEVER RECOVER.

ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, AS OF TODAY:

TWO THOUSAND, FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY-EIGHT U.S. SOLDIERS HAVE BEEN KILLED IN IRAQ.

ALMOST EIGHTEEN THOUSAND HAVE BEEN WOUNDED.

AND THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS ESTIMATES THAT AT LEAST THIRTY-NINE THOUSAND INNOCENT IRAQI CIVILIANS HAVE BEEN KILLED.

AND EVEN AFTER ALL OF THIS CARNAGE...

THE PRESIDENT AND THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CONTINUE TO CLING TO THEIR FAILED POLICY.

THEY HAVE NO REAL PLAN TO WIN;

NO REAL PLAN TO LEAVE;

AND NO WAY TO MAKE UP FOR ALL THE PAIN AND SUFFERING THAT HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY THEIR TRAGIC DECISIONS. ======== MY FRIENDS, IT'S IMPORTANT THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THIS:

REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU MIGHT FEEL ABOUT OUR POLICY IN IRAQ, I CAN ASSURE YOU OF THIS:

OUR TROOPS ARE MAGNIFICENT.

I SALUTE THEIR COURAGE.

I COMMEND THEIR BRAVERY.

AND I HONOR THEIR SACRIFICE.

IT IS A SHAME THAT THEIR COMMANDER IN CHIEF CONTINUES TO DENY THE REALITY ON THE GROUND;

AND IN DOING SO, FORCES OUR BRAVE SONS AND DAUGHTERS TO PAY A TERRIBLE PRICE FOR HIS FAILED LEADERSHIP.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
I SINCERELY BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE DONE ALL THAT WE CAN DO IN IRAQ, AND IT IS TIME TO BRING OUR TROOPS HOME. ===== MORE THAN THREE DECADES AGO, YOUNG AMERICANS WERE THE FIRST VOICES TO DEMAND AN END TO THE LIES.

BECAUSE THEY TRULY LOVED THEIR COUNTRY, THEY ASKED THEIR GOVERNMENT TO FINALLY TELL THE TRUTH.

AND BECAUSE THEY LOVED THEIR COUNTRY, THEY DEMANDED AN END TO THE SENSELESS VIOLENCE.

AND I HOPE THAT YOU WILL USE YOUR VOICES TO SEND THAT SAME MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE IN POWER WHO STARTED THIS UNECESSARY WAR.

IT'S TIME TO CHANGE COURSE IN IRAQ, AND THAT CHANGE CAN BEGIN WITH YOU.

LET ME CLOSE WITH A QUOTE FROM ONE OF AMERICA'S MOST BELOVED TEACHERS...

A MAN WHO TAUGHT US MANY PROFOUND LESSONS...
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

IN 1967, DR. KING SAID THIS:

"I AM CONVINCED THAT THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST UNJUST WARS THAT HAS EVER BEEN FOUGHT."

"OUR INVOLVEMENT HAS ALIENATED US FROM THE FAMILY OF NATIONS AND HAS TORN UP THE GENEVA ACCORDS."

"THE GREATEST CHALLENGE THAT WE FACE IS FINDING AN ALTERNATIVE TO WAR AND BLOODSHED."

"ANYONE WHO STILL FEELS THAT WAR CAN SOLVE THE PROBLEMS OF MANKIND IS SLEEPING THROUGH A GREAT REVOLUTION."

"THE WORLD MUST HEAR THIS."

"OUR LEADERS MUST HEAR THIS."

"I PRAY TO GOD THAT AMERICA WILL HEAR THIS BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE."

MY FRIENDS,
THAT PROFOUND TEACHING WAS TRUE IN 1967, AND IT'S STILL TRUE TODAY.

AND I PRAY, THAT WITH YOUR STRONG, FEARLESS VOICES,
WE WILL BRING THAT LESSON TO THOSE IN POWER WHO FAILED TO LEARN IT THE FIRST TIME.

==== CONGRATULATIONS ON ALL THAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES.

AND MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS THE UNITED STATES.

THANK YOU."