Clay Aiken – Education……Changes the World

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.


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  1. I remember being so proud of Clay for graduating…After his whirlwind spree on AI, and a tour, we found out later that while on tour, Clay was trying to complete his hours. Even back then, Clay had his priorities right….Education is the most important thing.

    Loved watching the video again…


  2. That's one of the things I love most about Clay. He is really sincere about his dedication to education. Especially all the work he does with the National Inclusion Project. Even the whole Wake County thing happened because he cares about what happens in the local schools. I really admire how he knows what's important to him and works to help.

  3. It is so wonderful to relive these milestones in Clay's career!!! Thanks so much for the constant memories of why we sooo admire this great man!! He sure has always kept his priorities in the right place.

  4. Thank you for all this information and video about Clay's determination to complete his education. I know his Mom and family had/has to be so proud of him. I believe Clay has proven with his life, dedicated to those less fortunate, that education is ongoing and continues beyond the walls of the classroom. He is a blessing and I'm thankful for his heart to give to those in need and educating all those who will listen to what he has learned and has to share about it. Wonderful news here!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  5. Thank you for the walk down memory lane with this blog and video. Clay Aiken made me so proud with his dedication to graduating and his tireless work on behalf of children. He is a great man. I was proud of him then – I'm proud of him now!!!

  6. I had never seen that video of Clay Aiken at his graduation, thank you.
    Clay is such a great role model for the young.

  7. musicfan,

    Thank you for helping us commemorate important Clay Aiken anniversaries. College graduation day certainly qualifies for a special six-year celebration. Your excellent research takes us right back through the events of the day.

    Happy Christmas Week!


  8. Clay Aiken is such a grounded young man. He knew that a college degree is invaluble and forever. Quite the good example for kids. He said it from the get-go. It's not the fame and fortune – but what you do with the fame and fortune – the example you set. He really is what AI should be about.

  9. Thank you so much for all the information and video of Clay. I had never seen all of the coverage of his graduation. Very interesting. I am so proud of Clay for everything he has done since then. His very active role in the National Inclusion Project…and everything else he strives to do. His heart is always in the right place.

  10. Clay Aiken said he hopes to continue his education in the near future. Kudos to him for the importance he places on education.

  11. I remember that this was reported in our local paper in Rhode Island. I was so proud of Clay Aiken when I read it–still am!!!

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