A Magnolia State native and Mississippi State graduate soon to begin her fourth term a Tennessee congressman did double-duty this weekend as the university's fall commencement speaker.
United States Rep. Marsha W. Blackburn addressed graduates at both the Friday night and Saturday morning programs. She was the first graduation speaker for both events since the MSU first split the ceremonies four years ago due to growing attendance, among other factors.
More than 1,200 students are receiving degrees at the end of 2008.
Blackburn, who was born in Laurel [Miss.] and has lived for many years in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood, urged graduates, whether native to the South or not, to appreciate the region, especially what she called its lessons "learned from the front porch."
She praised Southerners' "finely tuned internal clocks," explaining, "We know the rhythms of life are to be enjoyed and not to be sped past. Anything worth doing is worth doing well and poor decisions are almost always made in a rush.
"When you rush to the finish line, you are speeding past opportunities," she observed. "As you travel in life, listen to your internal clock and go at your own pace, a pace that reflects the studied contemplation of the front porch."
Blackburn is the first female from the Volunteer State elected in her own right to the House of Representatives. The Republican and 1973 MSU home economics graduate serves the 7th District that stretches from Nashville's suburbs to the outskirts of Memphis.
Drawing on her experiences as a mother and grandmother, successful business leader and politician, Blackburn also urged her fellow alumni to be bold in their future lives and never fear failure.
"I can guarantee you that you will fail, and you will fail spectacularly and gloriously," she predicted. "At some time in your life, you are going down in flames and there always will be small and petty people who revel in the light show.
"Interestingly enough, however, you will find that life's greatest lessons come from the failures rather than the successes," she said.
Blackburn, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has served as deputy minority whip for the 110th Congress. She has been involved actively in Tennessee politics and civic organizations for more than 25 years.