Sen. Rob Portman Speaks on Ohio Values at AU Commencement

Sen. Rob Portman Speaks on Ohio Values at AU Commencement

5/6/17 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ohio Sen. Rob Portman spent much of the morning on the Ashland University campus on May 6 and spoke about Ohio values and incredible Ohioans during his speech to graduates at Ashland University’s spring commencement ceremony in Kates Gymnasium.
In his address, Portman said, “This is called a commencement for a reason. This is a new beginning for you. So you are launching the next chapter of your lives here.”

Portman said he talked with some of the students before the ceremony and he is glad to hear that many of the graduates are going to stay in Ohio. “We need you here. And because some of you are Ohioans and are going to stay in Ohio, I am going to give you a couple of reminders of the Ohio values and talk about a few famous Ohioans who I think exemplify those values,” he said.  

Portman first addressed work ethic, noting “here in Ohio we are known for our work ethic. I see a lot of hard workers here. You wouldn’t be here graduating if you did have that work ethic. But it is something to be reminded of because I do think that is one of the issues in our society today -- this notion that somehow we aren’t holding up the dignity of work and hard work.”

Portman said one of his favorite sayings is – “the harder I work, the luckier I get. And I say that because some people will tell you getting ahead is somehow out of your control. That it is a matter of luck. I don’t believe that. I believe you have the ability to be able to chart your own course. Hard work, of course, is the ingredient of success over which you have the most control. Circumstances and conditions will change all the time but one thing that won’t change is the role you can play in your success. By the way, that is as true in the classroom as it is in the boardroom, as it is true on the shop floor as it is on the Senate floor.”

Portman then used the example of the Wright brothers to exemplify hard work. He said they grew up in a house without electricity, without a telephone, without running water, got around in horse and buggies, neither of them had a high school diploma, but they did have that Ohio work ethic. “They had full-time jobs running a bicycle shop and yet they took the time to pursue their passion,” he said.

Portman addressed “determination” as the second Ohioan value.

“Let’s face it, no matter where you are in life or where you go, you’re going to have some challenges, right? Given there will be bumps in the road you are going to be challenged to respond to that one way or another. Giving up is sometimes easy. Giving up sometimes seems to make the difficulties go away but it is also the quickest way to fail,” he said.

Portman then used the example of Thomas Edison to exemplify determination. He said Thomas Edison grew up nearly deaf, his teachers told his parents that he was either inattentive or unintelligent, and he left school at age 14 and started selling newspapers.

“He also started tinkering with things because he had this mind that was racing – he wanted to be an inventor. When he was 22 he made his first invention, it was a vote counting machine that he tried to sell to the United States Congress. But he failed there. His first attempt at inventing was a total failure. It was rejected but he was persistent – he did not give up. He kept tinkering and by the time he was 31 that nearly deaf kid who struggled in school had invented the phonograph, making some of the first sound recordings in history. After he invented the phonograph he went on to work on everything else, including the incandescent light bulbs.”

By the way, Edison and his staff conducted more than 2,000 experiments on the light bulb trying to find the best materials. They experimented for seven days a week for five months, Portman said.

“One day a friend dropped by the lab and said to Thomas Edison, ‘I am really sorry it is really a shame you haven’t gotten any results. Thomas Edison’s response was, I think, helpful to us in thinking about the future. His response was ‘I’ve gotten plenty of results. I now know several thousand things that don’t work.’ Persistence – he kept at it and became the most famous inventor of all time,” Portman said.

Portman then addressed the need for service. He said Ohio is the home of eight presidents, nine Supreme Court justices, 24 astronauts, and the home of more than 800,000 veterans.

He used the example of John Glenn as one who put public service first and was a war hero before even going into space or serving in Congress. Portman said Glenn believed that happiness in life comes from serving others in some way. He said Glenn believed in serving a cause greater than yourself and he was an example of one who never stopped finding ways to serve.

“So in the next chapter of your life I hope these incredible Ohioans will inspire you,” Portman said. “Work hard, like the Wright brothers, and when difficulties come as they do for all of us, keep fighting, like Thomas Edison, and following John Glenn’s example, find fulfillment in serving others in a way that fits you.”

Following the commencement address, the presentation of degrees was handled by President Dr. Carlos Campo and Provost Dr. Eun-Woo Chang. A total of 679 degrees (206 graduate and 473 undergraduate) were awarded in the spring 2017 ceremony, including 5 doctor of education, 2 doctor of nursing practice, 101 master of education, 75 master of business administration, 21 master of arts, 2 master of science, 93 bachelor of arts, 2 bachelor of fine arts, 3 bachelor of music, 117 bachelor of science, 5 bachelor of science in athletic training, 67 bachelor of science in business administration, 93 bachelor of science in education, 79 bachelor of science in nursing, 8 bachelor of science in social work, and 6 associate of arts.

Ashland University also recognized co-valedictorians and a salutatorian for the spring 2017 class.

Ryan Bastian, an integrated mathematics major from West Salem, Ohio, and Jaylynn Buchmelter, a music education major from Wintersville, Ohio, were the co-valedictorians, while Grace McCourt, an integrated mathematics major from Rittman, Ohio, was the class salutatorian.

Ashland University, ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2017, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.                                                                                ###


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