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Few addresses Lander Class of 2016 at 153rd Commencement

May 10, 2016

On Saturday, April 30, Lander University conducted its 153rd commencement ceremony, conferring bachelor’s and master’s degrees upon the 283 members of the spring Class of 2016.

South Carolina Supreme Court Justice John Cannon Few delivered the commencement address to a packed house at Finis Horne Arena. In his speech, Few told the graduates, “You represent the very best in us. You embody what we always wanted to be.

“We see in you a path to win the struggles we have been fighting so hard and so long to win,” he continued. “Because, as you stand here on the precipice of your vibrant life, we believe in you. We believe that you are the hope for the future.”

Born in Anderson, S.C., Few grew up in Greenwood and graduated from Greenwood High School. He is a 1985 graduate of Duke University, where, as a junior, he played the role of Duke’s mascot, the Blue Devil. He followed with a law degree from the University of South Carolina, and maintained a law practice in Greenville before being elected in 2000 as a circuit court trial judge. In 2010, Few became Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, a position he held until February of this year, when he was elected to fill a vacancy as a Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

2016 Lander Spring CommencementSouth Carolina Supreme Court Justice John Cannon Few

Few has also been active teaching law, having previously served on the faculty at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nev., and the Charleston School of Law. He currently teaches at the University of South Carolina School of Law. He has given or moderated more than 125 continuing legal education seminars in South Carolina and several other states.

Few asked the graduates to think about the concept of “hero,” and what that means to each of them. As a youth, he said, many of his heroes were athletes and musicians, from John McEnroe and Magic Johnson to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. By the time he reached college, his heroes had grown to include political figures and human rights leaders, such as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.

“Have you ever thought about what makes these men and women our heroes? Are they, in your mind, somehow different from you, that your life is not on a predetermined path to that level of heroism?” he asked. “Have you ever thought that these individuals are our heroes not because they were chosen, but because they are the people who chose to lead us in the struggles that are really about us, whether it be tennis or a world war or human equality?”

As the graduates prepare to embark on the next phase of their lives, they have the opportunity to be heroes also, Few said, as long as they embrace their new responsibilities as leaders. “You are predestined to succeed at whatever you choose to do. But what Lander has hammered home to you is the verb ‘to do’ – not ‘to be.’ You must engage, struggle, fight,” he said.

“None of us has any chance of success unless we accept the futility of ‘be’ and the necessity of ‘do.’ We have no chance of success if we do not embrace our struggles. But we have no chance of failure if we dedicate our life to that struggle, for it is in that struggle you choose that you will find success.”

Few ended with a reference to the many friends and family in attendance, as well as the faculty, staff and administrators who worked with the graduates during their time as students at Lander.

“These people who are here with you today... We have dedicated our lives to doing our part to arm you with the tools you need to carry on our – and now your – struggle,” he said.

“We led you here, and now you must lead.”

Photos from Spring Commencement