National PTA president touts lifelong learning, character, and technical competence to graduates
More than 300 newly minted Athens Technical College graduates gathered with their families and friends May 6 at the Classic Center in Athens to celebrate their academic milestone.
During the Athens Technical College graduation ceremony, 312 students who completed their diplomas or associate of applied science degrees from the college proudly strode across the Classic Center’s Grand Hall stage to accept their diplomas from college President Flora Tydings.
Following the presentation of diplomas, President Tydings officially conferred the rights and privileges to the new graduates, who — as tradition dictates — moved the tassels of their graduation caps from the right side to the left, signifying their new status as college alumni.
Earlier in the program, Otha Thornton, president of National PTA, the global volunteer organization that works to improve children’s education, safety, and health, delivered the graduation address.
Thornton, a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel who works as a senior operations analyst with General Dynamics in Fort Stewart, GA, was installed as National PTA president in 2013 as the first African-American male to hold that position in the organization’s 115-year history.
Prior to his military retirement, Thornton spent his last two assignments with the White House Communications Agency and with the U.S. Forces-Iraq in Baghdad.
In his address at the graduation ceremony, Thornton emphasized that achieving success involves several factors, including maintaining family support, keeping God first, developing an educated mind, and treating people properly.
Focusing on education, Thornton told the graduates that they must continue expanding their minds as well as their academic and technical training.
“Education doesn’t stop here at graduation,” he said. “You must strive to be lifelong learners.”
He urged the audience to devote themselves to reading, to developing their critical thinking skills, to traveling to other places, and to pursuing professions about which they are passionate. He also told them that strong character and technical competence can be very empowering.
“I’m often asked how I got a job in the White House,” Thornton said. “Those two qualities (character and technical competence) can take you anywhere.”
Photo caption: National PTA President Otha Thornton makes a point during his speech to the 2014 Athens Technical College graduates May 6.