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Leon Panetta and Margaret Fortune Address 4,200 Cal Poly Grads

Stacy Aragon

Business administration grad Stacy Aragon received her diploma with her 7-year-old son at this year’s Cal Poly Commencement ceremony. Photo by Chris Leschinsky

On June 11 and 12, the graduating class of 2016 gathered in Spanos Stadium for commencement. This year’s event was partitioned into three ceremonies to accommodate the roughly 4,200 graduates.This year, for the first time in recent years, graduates came to the stage individually to receive their diplomas.

Leon Panetta

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was the keynote speaker at Cal Poly’s Saturday commencement ceremonies. Photo by Chris Leschinsky

Leon Panetta and Margaret Fortune were the keynote speakers. Panetta was a senator representing the Central Coast for 16 years before being appointed White House chief of staff by President Bill Clinton in 1994. In 2011 President Barack Obama named him Secretary of Defense. Panetta’s speech, given at the two ceremonies onSaturday, challenged students to overcome tremendous obstacles in today’s government,economy and society. “You are now taking an important step toward fulfilling the dream of a better life. The dream of a better life is the American dream,” he said. “It can come true for you as well.”

Margaret Fortune

Margaret Fortune, CEO of the Rex and Margaret Fortune School of Education, was the keynote speaker at Cal Poly’s Sunday commencement ceremony. Photo by Chris Leschinsky

Fortune is the president and CEO of Fortune School of Education, a network of public charter schools focused on closing the African-American achievement gap and preparing children for college from a young age. She spoke to the graduates on Sunday about promotng diversity at Cal Poly and the importance of giving back to the community. “You have some choices to make, like what comes next for you,” she said. “But it’s bigger than that. You have to ask yourself what unique contribution are you going to make to the world.”

Several honorary degrees were also handed out to deserving recipients: Charles L. Harrington, CEO and president of Parsons Corp; José Zaglul, president of EARTH University; Paul V. McEnroe, award-winning engineer and creator of the barcode; and Tina Hansen McEnroe, award-winning education specialist and co-creator of the McEnroe Reading and Language Arts Clinic at UCSB.

-By Becky Zieber

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