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Commissioner Clyburn Remarks at Paine College Founders Day Convocation

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Released: February 7, 2014

Remarks of the Honorable Mignon L. Clyburn

Federal Communications Commission

Founder’s Day Convocation
Paine College, Augusta, Georgia
February 7, 2014
To Dr. George Bradley, the distinguished President of this fine institution; to the Board of
Trustees; Officers; Deans; Faculty; Staff; Students; Alumni; distinguished guests, and ladies and
gentlemen of the Central Savannah River Area community.
It is truly an honor to be here today, as we celebrate 132 years of excellence at Paine College.
I am especially proud to join you this morning, not only in my role as an FCC Commissioner, but
also as a neighbor and a daughter of the South. Many of you know of my deep South Carolina
roots, so I say without hesitation that it’s good to be home and among family.
As an FCC Commissioner, I am often asked to speak on a wide range of issues—usually relating
to communications, technology, media, information, regulatory affairs, and occasionally the
politics which affect the multibillion dollar communications industry.
My work is both rewarding and challenging, and I am grateful to our President for appointing me
to serve in this capacity.
But, as the only African American on the FCC, I see my responsibilities through a unique set of
lenses, born from my experiences in South Carolina as a public school student, who attended
both segregated and integrated public schools; as an entrepreneur, painfully aware of the
challenges of meeting payroll; as an elected member of my home State Utilities Commission,
responsible for balancing the needs of consumers and the companies which serve them, and as
one who understands, first hand, that many in this country do not share in some of the wonderful
opportunities afforded to me and many of you in this audience.
So I see my role as public servant, as a facilitator of opportunities and a connector of the
disconnected.
Government should have a limited role in our lives and the markets that are important when
things are going well. But when they do not – when there is unfairness or inefficiency — then
those of us in government have the responsibility to step in judiciously to ensure fairness and to
restore foreclosed opportunities.
I believe it is important to make sure that there is not only a level playing field, but also that the
game is open to every player who wants to step onto that field.
These are the ideals and principles which guide my day-to-activities and keep me headed in what
I believe is the right direction, even in the face of headwinds or difficult challenges.

Remarks of Commissioner Clyburn at Paine College Founder’s Day Convocation
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As I reflect on the Paine College Ideal—an ideal, developed by a faculty committee appointed by
President E. C. Peters in 1933, and revised by the Board of Trustees at the Spring Meeting in
2003, I am inspired and reinvigorated.
For those know do not know the Paine College Ideal by heart, allow me to share its words:

The Paine College Ideal

To love truth, and seek it above material things;
To ennoble and be ennobled by common fellowship;
To keep the energies of life, at full tide;
To cultivate an appreciation of the beautiful;
To work well, and play with zest;
To have an open, unprejudiced mind;
To live simply, practicing a reasonable economy;
To find joy, in work well done;
To be an earnest disciple, in the school of Him, who brings, the abundant life;
To work diligently, for a better understanding, of the White and Black races.
Such is the spirit and ideal of Paine College.
To all who share this spirit, and are eager for the pursuit of high things, we offer a hearty
welcome.
What a motivating charge that is for students, staff, supporters and for us all. At a time when our
society seems to be saddled with challenges, the principles expressed in these ideals seem in
stark contrast to the streams of dissonance and discontent that flow throughout many of our
communities.
But, as I reflect further on the history and mission of Paine College, over the last 132 years, your
Mission stands out as a beacon of enlightenment and encouragement, and I am more motivated
than ever.
 Quality
 Excellence
 Ethics
 Spirit
 Leadership
 Service
Paine’s mission can be summarized in these six main principles, which I believe are not only
essential for students and young leaders, but for us all.

Quality

In business, we often hear the axiom: “It is quality, not quantity, which matters.” And to a great
extent this is true. When it comes to an individual, it is not hard to pick out that person who
exudes quality. In fact, when we describe someone’s positive attributes, we often speak in terms
of their “qualities”.
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Remarks of Commissioner Clyburn at Paine College Founder’s Day Convocation
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Paine College has been producing young men and women of quality for dozens of years, and it is
a mission that has yielded a successful and engaged group of alumni for this institution.
And as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advised us: “The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is
what is important.”

Excellence

Excellence has been defined, as “possessing good qualities in an eminent degree; exalted merit;
superiority in virtue.” Several years ago, following the publication of In Search of Excellence by
Tom Peters, a bestselling New York Times author, the business world began to focus on the
concept of excellence as a guiding principle. Today, excellence is still important to corporations
and business leaders, and we all know, and reputable studies prove, that when excellence is
expected and required, people generally rise to that standard.
John Gardner, a social activist once noted: “Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Few
have excellence thrust upon them . . . they achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly”, he
went on to say, “by doing what comes naturally, and they don’t stumble into it in the course of
amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.”
And I agree.
So as Paine College continues to expect and promote excellence among its students as an ideal
and as part of its mission, through discipline and tenacity, you will continue to produce alumni
who excel in their respective fields of endeavor, whatever those fields may be.

Ethics

Ethics remains important in our day-to-day lives. However, it is a principle which,
unfortunately, some of our business and government leaders have not always gotten correctly.
Ethics also is one of those areas of responsibility where a person is not always outwardly
rewarded for adhering to that standard. There is usually no plaque, no certificate, no bonus, and
no parade for doing what is right and just. It is expected of us as law-abiding citizens and as
responsible members of our communities.
But, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart observed: “Ethics is knowing the difference
between what you have a right to do, and what is right to do.” And therein lies the challenge for
many people today. We are bombarded with so many examples of the rich, famous and
infamous, who do not always exemplify the best ethical behavior. And too often they seem to
gain financially from that behavior.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there is a problem with being rich or famous. I am
just saying that perhaps we should be taking more of our cues from the pillars of our
communities—those professors, teachers, coaches, pastors, parents, who work hard day-in and
day-out. They provide the shining examples of what ethics in action looks like.
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Remarks of Commissioner Clyburn at Paine College Founder’s Day Convocation
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Leadership

Leadership is a quality in great demand. In Washington, we often hear calls for leadership on
this issue or that initiative. In our communities, we hear talk of leadership to address the
problems like crime, or poor education or the lack of jobs.
But as one observer noted: “Leaders are made, not born. You learn to become a leader by doing
what other excellent leaders have done before you. You become proficient in your job or skill,
then you become proficient at understanding the motivations and behaviors of other people.”
Then, and only then, do you take up the mantle of leadership on your own accord.
Like ethics, leadership can also be a tireless and thankless task—as we too often subject our
leaders to higher expectations and higher levels of scrutiny. But I am often reminded of the
saying that if you want to lead the orchestra, you must turn your back on the crowd.
America’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams noted that: “If your actions inspire others to
dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
For those of you at Paine College, leadership is not a foreign concept. You have been teaching
and training leaders for many years, and as you celebrate the vision of your founders, today, you
are to be commended on the leadership and vision you have had in fulfilling your mission.

Service

As is often said, no person is an island. We all live, breathe, and work in an environment that
affects others in both large and small ways. So service is one of the highest callings anyone can
perform. Whether it is service to your family, your church, your community, your city, your
state, your nation, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” the
great humanitarian, Mahatma Gandhi told us.
As someone who has been involved in public service for most of my life, I say without
hesitation, that there is no greater feeling than to be able to help your fellow man without the
expectation of something in return.
But you are surrounded by an entire community of servants here at Paine College, and what’s so
great about service, is that it most often does not have to be a grandiose undertaking. It can
come through volunteerism, philanthropy, good-neighborliness; lending a helping hand, and just
looking out for one another. All of these are high callings, indeed.
And, as our 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, said: “You are not here merely
to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and
with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish
yourself if you forget this errand.”
Everything you are doing here at Paine College is of great importance, and our nation needs you
because you are being prepared with laudable principles, which will better equip you to engage a
global community that is moving fast with technology, yet still has left some of those core
fundamentals behind.
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Remarks of Commissioner Clyburn at Paine College Founder’s Day Convocation
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We all see those business leaders, entrepreneurs and movers and shakers who are amassing great
fortunes and making great strides, but we see too few who have mastered the basic qualities of
ethics, excellence, leadership and service – principles which are at the very core of your
institution.
Thus, in the words of our 44th President, Barack Obama on the occasion of his First Inaugural
Address, I leave this charge with you:
“What is required of us now, is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on
the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the
world… duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in
the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our
character, as giving our all to a difficult task.”
So, again, to Dr. Bradley and the entire Paine College community, thank you for the opportunity
to share in this great Founder’s Day Convocation. And to the students of this fine institution:
Accept the charge. Embrace the principles codified by this institution, for your communities
need you now more than ever. We are counting on you. And with the lessons from Paine
College and its supporters, each and every day, you will receive all the tools you need to truly
make a difference. None of us have any doubt. It lies inside of you.
So dream, live, aspire and realize those ideals which Paine College continues to instill in you.
Thank you and God bless.
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