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Senator tells ETSU graduates to think bold and 'give back'

Robert Houk • Dec 16, 2018 at 12:00 AM

One of retiring U.S. Sen Bob Corker’s last official events in Tennessee was to deliver the fall commencement address Saturday at East Tennessee State University. Corker, who leaves office on Jan. 3 after 12 years in Congress, told graduates they should strive to be “indispensable” in everything they do in life.

“Master something,” the Republican lawmaker said. “Be the best you can be.”

For him, Corker said, it was learning how to build shopping centers.

He also urged students to have a “bold vision” of the things they want to accomplish, and to approach those things in an equally bold fashion.

“I promise you it will take you places you’ve never imagined,” said Corker, who serves as chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.

Lastly, Corker told students to “give something back” to their communities.

“You may think you are helping others, but it ends up that you are the one being touched,” he said.

Corker said he was happy “to celebrate this transition” with students and parents at the commencement ceremony.

“We all know that the good things that are happening in this country are happening in places like ETSU,” he said.

Earlier, Corker told reporters that he was entering a period of transition in his own life. Corker, who decided not to seek re-election this year, will be succeeded in the Senate by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

“We are very upbeat about the transition,” Corker said.

While Blackburn may be new to the Senate, Corker said her 16 years in the House of Representatives puts her ahead of the curve.

“She doesn’t need advice from me,” he said. “She will just need to build on that experience.”

The state’s junior senator said he was “excited about what comes next” after a political career that has included serving as a member of former Gov. Don Sundquist’s Cabinet and as mayor of Chattanooga.

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter, Corker said.

ETSU officials said more than 1,400 diplomas were handed out Saturday at two fall commencement ceremonies. Corker spoke at the afternoon graduation ceremony, while Dr. Bethany Flora, the incoming president of Northeast State Community College, was the keynote speaker at ETSU’s 10 a.m. commencement.

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