The powerful ideals forever enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence served as the inspiration for words of encouragement as well as admonitions of personal responsibility during the spring 2013 commencement exercises for Southeast Arkansas College on Friday evening.
Mac Bellingrath, chair of the SEARK College Foundation, told the 146 students assembled in the arena of the Pine Bluff Convention Center that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness so eloquently penned by Thomas Jefferson more than two centuries ago had a very visceral resonance for the Class of 2013.
“I am going to visit with you tonight about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the role that these graduates assembled before me tonight play in that,” Bellingrath said. “Life. When I think of the word life I think of those here tonight graduating from the nursing and allied health program. The degree conferred upon you tonight gives you the right to make decisions that affect the preservation of life and the enhancement of the quality of life in the hospitals and medical facilities where you will work.
“You will do your job to the best of your ability,” Bellingrath said. “Colossians 3:23 says whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.”
Bellingrath said that when it comes to the word liberty his thoughts turn to those graduating with degrees in criminal justice and public safety.
“In order to have liberty there first has to be the preservation of the safety of our people,” Bellingrath said. “Our nation’s safety is preserved by our military and after that is secure then we turn to our public safety officers here at home. Those of you graduating with degrees in criminal justice and public safety will make a substantial difference in the preservation of liberty. It is you who will allow people to go about their daily lives in safety.”
Bellingrath said that for purposes of his presentation the pursuit of happiness was more aptly described as the pursuit of betterment.
“For all of you who graduated with credentials in air conditioning technology, welding, industrial and mechanical technology and computer maintenance and technology, the work that you do makes our society better,” Bellingrath said. “Those of you graduating with degrees in business will help to increase the standard of living of our community and so make it better.”
Bellingrath said the SEARK graduates had bettered themselves as a group by becoming a part of the skilled workforce.
“You have distinguished yourselves and you are among the best prepared to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Bellingrath said.
“Proverbs 22:29 says; Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men,” Bellingrath said.
SEARK College President Steve Hilterbran said that a total of 270 students graduated in the spring 2013 class with 146 walking Friday evening and earning 258 degrees and certificates of proficiency.
“These are extremely significant achievements and I offer my congratulations to each and every graduate here tonight,” Hilterbran said.
The arena was filled with approximately 2,000 family members and friends of the graduates.
Degrees and credentials awarded included the Associate of Arts degree, the Associate of General Studies, the Associate of Applied Science, the Certificate of General Studies, Technical Certificates and Certificates of Proficiency.