Brown is a real-life lesson in perseverance for grads

By Bryan Marquard
Globe Staff / May 9, 2010

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DUDLEY — Using the example of his own surprise victory in January, US Senator Scott Brown encouraged graduates of Nichols College yesterday to persevere when others doubt their abilities.

During his first commencement address since being elected to succeed the late Edward M. Kennedy, Brown recalled that many people suggested he had little chance of becoming the first Republican since 1972 to win a US Senate seat in Massachusetts.

“The question I heard most often was, ‘Why even bother?’ It was all supposed to be a done deal, and I wasn’t part of the deal,’’ Brown said.

He told the graduates that their worst enemy “is not the prospect of defeat, it’s the temptation to give up. . . . I never listened to naysayers, and my advice to you is: Neither should you.’’

Brown, who drew national attention and engendered controversy Thursday when he cosponsored a bill that would allow the US government to remove citizenship from anyone who supports or joins a terrorist group, said after the ceremony that he chose to avoid political themes in his speech and instead give the graduates something inspirational.

“I’m here to celebrate the students,’’ he said in response to a TV reporter’s question about the proposal.

Nichols, a college of about 1,200 students in Central Massachusetts near the Connecticut line, awarded 354 degrees during a ceremony held as rain fell.

Although two Teleprompters flanked the podium, Brown added folksy touches to the prepared text of his commencement address, sometimes repeating lines for emphasis or ad-libbing a mention of the speech by the class valedictorian, who also spoke about pursuing goals in the face of adversity.

A nontraditional student in her early 60s, Gloria D. Harvey said she took a “marathon’’ journey to graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor of science in business administration, and kept going when tragedy made her want to stop.

“Nearly two years ago, today almost didn’t happen for me,’’ she said. “You see, the love of my life and biggest cheerleader passed away. The man who provided me years of love and support, believed in me, and took over the household chores while I studied, was gone. In my grief I contemplated not continuing my education.’’

Kristin Marie Andrews, the senior class president who also graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science in business administration, paid tribute in her speech to her father, who died in 1997.

The senator, who has two daughters, appeared emotional as he sat close by when Andrews said her father “is beside me today in spirit. I promise to live each measure in my life in dedication to you, and hope from where you rest today, that you know how much I love you.’’

Brown used his speech to mention some things that had brought him media attention, not always for the good.

“I’m Scott Brown, I’m from Wrentham, and I still drive a truck,’’ he said a few lines into his speech, to loud cheers.

But then he joked with the graduates: Drawing from his experience appearing nude in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1982, he advised them to “be very, very selective about posing for pictures. You can be a centerfold, or you can be a senator, but very rarely do those career paths converge in a positive manner, trust me.’’

Ultimately, though, he used his election as an example when telling the audience that people should pursue goals in the face of those who say “it can’t be done. . . . There are few guarantees in life, and practically none in politics. But I can assure you of this: You will never regret giving your all to a great endeavor.’’

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