Commencement Speech by Rodney Hargis:

An article titled "Mercer graduates take pride in achievements" by Carmen Cusido published Friday, May 22, 2009, in the Times of Trenton mentions Rodney Hargis' commencement speech, a past resident of the Rescue Mission.

Commencement Speech by Mercer County Community College Graduate Rodney Hargis:

Congratulations Class of '09!  On behalf of my fellow graduates, I'd like to say thank you to our families and friends for your continued love and support.  Also, thanks to the faculty, staff and administration here at Mercer for your hard work and dedication.  Without each of you, this day would not be possible for any of us.

Graduates, you've demonstrated through your hard work, courage and dedication that you’ve got what it takes to accomplish the task at hand, no matter what.  Whether you come from the inner city or the suburbs, from poverty or affluence, whether you're a couple of years or a couple of decades removed from high school, you’ve demonstrated your willingness to persevere, no matter what.

Myself, I entered college in 1990 in my home state of North Carolina.  After a couple of semesters, I decided to take some time off to reconsider my direction in life.  Not long after this, I lost my father to cancer and faced a litany of personal tragedies.  Soon, I turned to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain.  In no time at all, the idea of returning to school was nothing more than a distant dream and my only concern was finding a way to feed my addiction for one more day.  By the time I arrived in this area in 2003, my life had been reduced to nothing but the clothes on my back and a beat-up guitar.  Worn down from a life of addiction, I came to Trenton seeking a new life.  I found myself in the Rescue Mission of Trenton, where I stayed for 2 years, learning how to live and laying the foundations of a better life for myself.  I learned many things during that time, but perhaps the most profound lesson I learned was that "The only difference between dreams and reality is prayer and effort."  Those words struck a chord in my soul and I realized that it’s NEVER TOO LATE to start over.  In 2006, I met the woman of my dreams, a woman who recently became my wife, and it was she who gave me the courage to go back to school.  So, in January 2007, after a semester off which lasted 15 years, I came to Mercer.

When I came back to school, I didn’t know what to expect, but by the end of my first semester here, I understood why this is called a COMMUNITY COLLEGE.  It’s called a community college because we are a COMMUNITY.  We are a diverse group of people with a wide variety of interests who study on different campuses, West Windsor, Kearney Campus in Trenton, or in cyberspace on the Virtual College.  But we are united as a community by our common goal... to turn our dreams into reality.

No matter what your dream, Mercer has a program of study that fits your needs.  And what’s more, Mercer has a community of administration, faculty, and staff who genuinely care and are willing to work with students to help them achieve their dreams… no matter what.

Mercer appeals to students of all ages, from all backgrounds with a wide variety of goals and ambitions.

  • Single mothers, who work full-time, care for their children, yet manage to stay on top of their studies, NO MATTER WHAT.
  • Men and women who have served our country in wars, who have come home to resume their lives and pursue their dreams, NO MATTER WHAT.
  • People who lived in poverty, who refused to become yet another statistic, NO MATTER WHAT.
  • People who were victims of corporate downsizing, who lost their jobs due to the recent economic downturn and were forced to seek a new career, but refused to give up, NO MATTER WHAT.

Each of us, in our own way, is the embodiment of the "never say die" spirit from which greatness is born.  So I challenge each of you to search your heart, find your dreams, chase them down, and don’t give up NO MATTER WHAT.

I leave you with the words of Harper Lee who said, "Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through NO MATTER WHAT."


98 Carroll Street, P.O. Box 790 * Trenton, NJ 08605-0790