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Rep. Harold E. Ford told about 2,300 University of Tennessee graduates Saturday that they have more resources than ever before to overcome the new challenges of today.

U.S. strength, freedom and education levels are higher than ever before and will help today’s generation address modern problems such as terrorism, SARS, and economic slowdown, Ford said.

Rep. Harold E. Ford

“You and I are inheriting and now participating in a new world and a new era,” Ford said. “Fortunately you have been blessed with a wonderful education that will empower and enable you to contribute good to communities across our great state and make our nation and world a better place.”

Ford, a Memphis Democrat elected to Congress in 1996 at age 26, urged graduates to draw on an unprecedented wealth of national resources to make the world a better place.

“At no time in our nation’s history or the world’s history has any nation been richer or stronger militarily than America is today,” Ford said. “We remain the world’s lone and strongest superpower, the strongest in the history of the world.
This moment brings a lot of opportunity and potential.

“Our generation is armed with more freedom, more resources, and more capacity than ever to change and better the lives of Americans and people across the globe. The question before us is, ‘What will we do with it?'”

UT President John W. Shumaker also saluted graduates.

“Every class the University of Tennessee graduates helps the people of Tennessee become better educated, more productive and healthier,” Shumaker said. “That (graduation) is a defining moment of our mission and our responsibility to the state of Tennessee.

“So today, we can celebrate your success as one measure of our success as a university.”

The ceremony also included a moment of silence to acknowledge Sandy Jeffers, anthropology major from Maryville, who was scheduled to graduate Saturday. Missing since Tuesday, her body was found Friday.