Over the years, I’ve given my share of commencement addresses with, at best, mixed results. For a long time, I’ve considered the challenge of speaking at a graduation ceremony as one of the toughest. For one thing, no one comes to hear the speaker. One is either fussing with the camera and plotting where best to stand, totally disconnected and wondering why one even attended, dreading the party that will follow, uncomfortable because someone insisted you dress up, and on and on. This all stands in contrast to the tremendous honor of the achievement. Of all the addresses I gave, there was only one that proved a real success. It was at the University of Kansas. I delivered my prepared text of just 45 seconds in length and got a standing ovation from the graduating seniors.
This year at Kansas State University, we are honoring Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum with an Honorary Doctorate in the Graduate School ceremonies. I consider Nancy a friend and one of Kansas’ very best public servants. I had the pleasure of working with her as Governor when she was serving in the United States Senate. I always remember how fair she was to work with and how respected she was by her fellow senators from both parties. Looking back, we were very lucky to have her service. She won a very close race in a nine candidate primary election, with only one other female candidate. I say that because we don’t have a runoff election when the winner gets less than 50% of the vote in a primary. Her closest competitor came in a very close second and might have won a runoff. But she won and the state and the country has benefited greatly from her service. We are also blessed with her return to reside in Kansas on her ranch in the Flint Hills. Thank you Nancy, and welcome back to Kansas State University.