The keynote speaker for the event was former Gov. Paul E. Patton, who recently became president of Pikeville College and is the chairman of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
Patton is known as the “Education Governor” for his overhaul of Kentucky’s higher education system. During his time in office, he made community colleges and technical schools independent of the University of Kentucky and organized them into the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. He is also largely credited for his work on the Kentucky Educational Reform Act (KERA).
Patton said the future of the United States in the world lies in the country’s educational system.
“We are not producing the education we need to,” Patton said.
“Its not that we’ve fallen behind, other countries have advanced further and faster than we have. For the past 100 years, we have emphasized education, and they have emulated us.”
Patton said it is the responsibility of those who owe their success to a quality education to ‘pay it forward.’
“Those of us who have prospered because of education have the obligation to help those who will follow us,” he said.
“Knowledge is critical, if the U.S. is to maintain our position of leadership.”
Patton told the graduates he felt the most important job in the country is that of classroom teacher.
“The ability to transmit knowledge is vital,” he said. “There are no self-made men or women. If Bill Gates were raised on an island without an education, he would be working to pick coconuts like everyone else.”
Before helping to hand out the Top of the Class awards, Patton shared this observation:
“Civilization is only one generation deep. Many civilizations have disappeared, such and the Aztecs and the Incas, because they could not pass on knowledge. Without this, our civilization will perish.
“We need to renew our commitment to education.”