NORMAN — Convocation ceremonies for the University of Oklahoma’s various colleges took place all across campus from morning to evening, and though the College of International Studies’ fall graduating class was small, the advice of keynote speaker Reggie Whitten was a message beneficial for all of Saturday’s graduates.
Whitten, a native of Seminole, is a graduate of the university and the OU College of Law who co-founded the Whitten-Newman Foundation, Pros for Africa and Pros for Vets, benefiting U.S. educational intiatives, victims of central African conflict and veterans and their families, respectively.
“I discovered that giving back to the less fortunate is the most powerful force,” Whitten said. “In my life, nothing has changed me more than giving back, and it’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had.”
Imploring graduates to look beyond goals of personal wealth, Whitten used himself as an example, saying he made wealth a priority and enjoyed financial success for years before realizing it was “unfulfilling.”
“I made money the first few years, and it’s so unfulfilling, but giving back to the less fortunate is so fulfilling,” Whitten said.
In addition to encouraging graduates to be ambitious and “dream big,” Whitten reminded his audience that there is great power in small gestures of inspiration, as he personally experienced as a young man in Seminole, where fellow Seminole native OU President David Boren told Whitten he was talented.
“The examples that you can set, the lives you can touch will be just like President Boren changing my life. I believe I’ve changed some lives and hope to continue doing that, and I’ve never been happier. Trust me, if you keep giving back to the less fortunate and keep dreaming, you’ll sleep soundly every night,” Whitten said.