State Superintendent Steven R. Staples challenged graduates to step up as leaders during his address at the University of Mary Washington’s graduate commencement Friday, May 8.
“We need high quality leadership,” said Staples, who pondered the question of whether leaders are made or born. He recounted the impact of three diverse trailblazers–Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa—who shared common traits.
“All three refused to simply accept circumstances ‘as they were’ and worked to make progress to improve life, despite obstacles and challenges,” Staples said. “And all three led from the heart. Their leadership was an extension of their core beliefs and principles.”
Staples addressed nearly 1,000 graduates, family members, friends and faculty, gathered in Dodd Auditorium. A total of 169 graduate degrees were awarded, including 87 Master of Education degrees, 47 Master of Business Administration degrees, 27 Master of Science in Elementary Education degrees and 8 Master of Science in Management Information Systems degrees. Five graduates received both the MBA and the MSMIS in a dual-degree program.
Staples implored graduates to model qualities from such leaders of the past. “Refuse to accept ‘what is’ if ‘what could be’ is better,” he said. “Lead by your core principles.”
As Virginia’s 24th superintendent, Staples is a leader in his own right. He serves as the executive officer of the Virginia Department of Education, the administrative agency for the commonwealth’s public schools. He also serves as secretary of the Board of Education.
Pondering the ‘born’ or ‘made’ leadership dilemma, Staples said the answer may be a combination of the two.
“Perhaps it doesn’t matter, as long as leaders are willing to accept the expectations, responsibilities, and challenges inherent in leadership . . . . as long as we are all ready to become one of those willing to dare greatly.”
Pamela Bridgewater, a Foreign Service officer who served as U.S. Ambassador in three countries, will deliver the undergraduate commencement address on Saturday, May 9, beginning at 9 a.m. on Ball Circle.