U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer Speaks at TRiO Graduation

Posted on: Jun, 29, 2022

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U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer spoke before graduates at the TRiO graduation ceremony on June 15, 2022. A transcript of his speech is included below.

Hello, TRiO graduates. Derek Kilmer here. Proud Representative for Washington's 6th Congressional District. I so wish that I could be there in person with you all today. So, I'm doing the next best thing and sending you a long and boring video, but in all seriousness, I wish I could be with you today to celebrate this absolutely terrific achievement, graduation.

There's a reason we invest in the TRiO program and it's because the TRiO program invests in you, supporting your learning, providing support services and aid and working to help you arrive at this incredible day.

So, I want to talk about why this matters, and I may need you to give me a second to explain. You see, I am a huge movie buff. For me, it's all about the movie franchises. You can learn a lot from movie franchises. The Harry Potter movies, for example, great lessons on the power of friendship on the ability of an ordinary person, even a little boy who lives under the stairs, to accomplish great things. The Marvel Universe, the Avengers movies, powerful allegories about people of diverse backgrounds and capabilities coming together for the common good. The Fast and the Furious movies. Also powerful allegories about the dangers of driving fast and furiously. Okay, the Star Wars movies. I learned everything from the Star Wars movies that the most evil bad guy can be redeemed. I learned that there is in fact a force that, in the words of Obi Wan Kenobi, surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together.

But here’s what I’ll tell you. There are some film franchises that have no life lessons. The paranormal activities movies, no life lessons. The Transformers movies. There have been like ten of them and you can watch all of them and you will truly learn no important life lessons. Now, as a kid I admit, I enjoyed watching a yellow Camaro transform into a giant robot that could save the planet from evil, but the movie franchise, no life lessons, not even from the iconic John Cena.

But as I visit with you today, I want to celebrate a different kind of transformers, not the movies, but the idea. You, my friends, have gone through an amazing transformation as you graduate from the TRiO program at Grays Harbor College. The transformative investment you have made in making it to this point in your education is awesome. The investment that’s been made in you by your educators and staff and administrators is awesome. The investment that your family and friends have made in you to make sure you’ve made it to this point is awesome.

Having taken classes here, having developed skills here means you transformed into a more capable person and a more attractive asset in this economy. That’s something I care a lot about because if we want more people to be employed rather than unemployed, if we want people to make good wages, then we’ve gotta put this educational transformation within reach for you and for a whole lot more people, and that’s why TRiO matters.

Second, we are undergoing an economic transformation. Just think about this. My first job, perhaps not surprisingly, was at a video store, Westside Video in Port Angeles. A store that no longer exists. You know, by and large, video stores don’t exist. The words “Be Kind, Please Rewind,” mean nothing to most of you graduates. You’ve experienced the awesome on-demand world of iTunes and Netflix and YouTube and TikTok.

The economic transformations that we’ve seen in many respects have changed our lives, making things more convenient, opening up information and entertainment. It’s made us more productive and connected. But the rapid change that is just a fact of your lives can also be scary because the days of graduating school, getting a job, and having that exact same job for the next 30 to 40 years are rarer and rarer, but here’s the deal. The education that you have and the skills that you continue to develop make it more likely that you will be able to navigate that economic change, rather than to be victims of it and the more skills you develop and the more you continue to invest in yourself, the more that will be true and the bigger impact you will have on transforming our economy.

So, whether you are a first-generation student or a student that overcame significant challenges to make it to this day, you are taking a huge step forward today and you should all be so proud of that. Our nation has made a commitment to providing educational opportunities for all Americans regardless of race, ethnic background, economic circumstances. It is a notion I believe in strongly and it’s why I have been an advocate for the work that TRiO does at schools like yours, and it’s why I make it a point to visit with the team and students there. Because I think it’s important to celebrate your work. I’m so excited for each of you and just want to congratulate you.

A transformational leader once said, fate rarely calls on us at a moment of our choosing. You may lose faith in us, but never in yourselves. From here, the fight will be your own. Of course, those are the words of Optimus Prime from the Transformers Movie. I just couldn’t resist. Alright, congratulations to each of you. Go get em.