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Former Vice President Al Gore addresses graduates at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony.

KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, honored former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore with an honorary degree today at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement exercises.

The degree, an Honorary Doctor of Laws and Humane Letters in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is just the third to be granted by UT Knoxville.

The honoree shared his thoughts and advice with the 1,030 graduates and their families and guests, estimated to be well over 13,000 people.

Gore acknowledged the economy’s improvement but focused more on another important issue — the climate crisis — and how the 2010 graduating class can be part of the solution.

“Just as this occasion offers an opportunity to make an assessment of how those who came before you have done, the day will come not too many years from now when a future generation will assess what you and those of us who are still around have done over these next few years and decades.

“I want them to look back at this day in time and ask of us ‘how did you find the moral courage to rise up and solve a crisis that somebody said was impossible to solve?’ I believe in my heart that we are going to solve this crisis. I believe that this is the greatest opportunity that our society has ever had. And I’m excited about the fact that from this day forward you’re going to be a part of all of the great work our society is doing.”

Gore received a standing ovation following the address. UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek introduced the former vice president, emphasizing his contributions to the state and nation.

“Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Gore has represented the state of Tennessee admirably as a public servant and as a private citizen,” Cheek said. “His appreciation for and personal interest in the institution of higher education is apparent, and his role in bringing environmental concerns to the forefront of our national dialogue is commendable. It is fitting that he be awarded an honorary degree from the flagship institution of his home state.”

Gore was co-winner, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change. He is the author of the best-selling books “Earth in the Balance” and “An Inconvenient Truth” and also is the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary.

Gore, whose career in public service and business has spanned four decades, is chairman of Current TV, an Emmy-award-winning, independently owned cable and satellite television nonfiction network for young people based on viewer-created content and citizen journalism. He also serves as chairman of Generation Investment Management, a firm that focuses on a new approach to sustainable investing, and as a visiting professor at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. In addition, he chairs the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit organization designed to help solve the climate crisis.

A native of Carthage, Tenn., he was inaugurated as our nation’s 45th vice president on Jan. 20, 1993, and served eight years. In that role, he served as president of the Senate, as a member of the National Security Council and led of a wide range of administration initiatives. Prior to serving as vice president, Gore was twice elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee, in 1984 and 1990. He represented Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District — the seat also was held by his

Former Vice President Al Gore is awarded an honorary doctorate from UT Knoxville at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony.

father, Al Gore Sr. — in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1976 to 1982.

Nominations for an honorary degree must be considered and approved by a committee of the UT Knoxville Faculty Senate, the campus administration and the UT Board of Trustees. Previous honorary degree recipients have been Dolly Parton and Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr.

Today’s ceremony was one of 14 held on campus this week as more than 4,300 students received degrees. Photos and an archived version of the webcast can be found online at

C O N T A C T :

Kristi Hintz (865-974-3993,