Melton congratulates new graduates on reaching the starting line

Published: December 16, 2017
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"The finish line is really the starting line. Congratulations on making it to the starting line."

Those were the parting words to Auburn University's fall graduates Saturday, Dec. 16, by the commencement speaker, alumnus Harold Melton, presiding justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. The university conferred 1,683 degrees during two ceremonies in Auburn Arena.

Melton began by reflecting on the Auburn spirit and the sense of belonging the new graduates have experienced on the Plains. He offered his "condolences" as he remembered "the strange sense of loss I felt as I walked away from my graduation ceremony. And I didn't know if I was supposed to feel that way. Let me tell you, that feeling of loss is real."

These feelings, he said, came from Auburn's being a great home for four years. Student and professors, he said, pour their energies into their endeavors at Auburn "to create this collective, synergistic contribution to this place that we sentimentally refer to as the Auburn spirit."

He emphasized that the new graduates' temporary home at Auburn has led them to be stronger academically, socially and spiritually. "You are equipped to succeed in your chosen endeavors. Go with the boldness that comes with the confidence in your training, but with the humility that comes with the knowledge that so much more lies ahead."

Speaking of the new life experiences that await the graduates, Melton continued, "But now it's time to go. And go you must. But go, trusting in your training. Trust in all your years of development. Trust in the person you have become, and the person you are continuing to become."

Melton earned his Bachelor of Science degree in international business from Auburn in 1988. While on the Plains, he was elected Auburn's first African American SGA president. After graduation, he earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1991 and began a career with the Georgia Department of Law and, later, executive counsel in the governor's office. Melton was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2005 and was sworn in as presiding justice earlier this year.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.