Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world……..Nelson Mandela
Clay Aiken graduated on Saturday, December 20, 2003, from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in special education from UNCC’s College of Education.
Clay obtained his degree during an afternoon ceremony at the school’s Halton Arena, and according to people in attendance at the ceremony, he was just another face among all of the black-robed graduates. Others disagreed and said he could be spotted because of his height and his signature spiked hair that stuck out from beneath his mortarboard.
Being the very last of the 593 graduates, Clay’s name was only mentioned as he walked across the stage. When he approached the stage, there were lots of flashbulbs that went off in the arena. As his name was announced, there was lots of applause with an occasional boo from a few hecklers. Because of his appearance at the commencement, the school was forced to impose a first-time limitation on tickets available to the grads. This was an unpopular policy with many of the students although it is commonplace at many universities.
James Woodward was the Chancellor of the university. He said, “One among you has received a bit more attention, and he would like to speak to his class.” He then asked Clay to join him on the stage.
Clay was humble, yet articulate as he spoke to the crowd saying,
“This has been an amazing year for me. This is more special to me than a lot of the things that have happened to me this year, because what happens here today says something to people. This is a day that makes for all of us a statement … how important it is to persevere and continue to work and strive to succeed.
Thank you for letting me be a part of this day. Congratulations and God bless. Thank you so much.”
His short speech was met with immediate and rousing applause.
After the ceremony, Clay held a short press conference where he spoke about the Bubel/Aiken Foundation. He presented a check from the foundation for $25,000 to the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. The Council presents the President’s Volunteer Service Awards to people who demonstrate a sustained commitment to their community. The Foundation’s gift was given to provide awards to those who make a sustained commitment to serving people with developmental disabilities.
Clay’s graduation and his attendance at the ceremony spoke loudly at how important the event was to Clay and his family. That he was able to graduate with all the changes in his life showed determination and purpose. Congratulations to Clay Aiken for the 6 year anniversary of his college graduation.
WRAL covered the graduation and the following video is their report of the event.