Aggie Grads Hear From Bush 41

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It's the annual event that brings thousands to Aggieland, and sends thousands out into the real world. College graduation is a rite of passage in a young person's life, but rarely do graduates get to hear from a former leader of the free world.

The digital age has created a new graduation tradition. In the past, everyone had to look high and low for family in the stands. Now, they dial them up for help, though it's not perfect.

"They're somewhere," said Kalee Nichols from the floor of Reed Arena, searching high, low and around corners for her family. "They can't find me. The angle's wrong."

But simple gestures still work wonders. "We do this thing every time I leave the house," said fellow graduate Lynda Espinosa. "They wave, ' I love you,' so once I remembered that, I just waved it up in the air and they found me."

Love, support, joy, relief -- they're all ever-present on graduation day.

"It's the beginning of the rest of my life, is what it is," said Richard Ramirez. "I'm just really excited to be here, and really proud that I finished."

Excited to finish, and excited of who they finished A&M studies with: friends, family...former presidents. George H. W. Bush was the commencement speaker for one of Friday afternoon's ceremonies.

"I've seen him around campus a couple times throughout the years, but I've never gotten a chance to hear him speak," said Nichols. "I was really excited."

"I also wish your lives to be filled with challenge and wonder," Bush said. "We only get one life, so make yours matter. I cannot promise you riches or power or fame, but I can promise you something much more meaningful. I can promise you will lead a life that matters, a life that will remain in the hearts of those around you."

"My biggest thing is that I hope everyone takes it to heart," said Espinosa of the president's speech. "I know I have. That's why I'm here."

"I really like the fact that he told us we didn't have to know what we were going to do in life, just to go out there and follow our hearts," Ramirez said.

In all, around 40,000 family members are expected to be in Aggieland over these three days' worth of graduation ceremonies, and an estimated 5,500 Aggies are graduating, one of the largest classes in the history of the school.

The former US president was not the only head of state to speak to Texas A&M grads. Panamanian President Martin Torrijos Espino was another commencement speaker. He is a 1987 A&M grad.