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Fitsanakis encourages CCU graduates to push for a brighter future

August 6, 2021
Joseph Fitsanakis, Ph.D., recipient of CCU’s 2021 Professor of the Year Award, served as the commencement speaker.Abigail Solarz, a marine science major from Mount Juliet, Tenn., earned President’s Award for Academic Achievement. She is flanked by Provost Ennis (left) and President Benson.

In his remarks to graduates during Coastal Carolina University’s summer commencement ceremony on Aug. 6, speaker Joseph Fitsanakis, Ph.D., recipient of CCU’s 2021 Professor of the Year Award, encouraged them to push for a brighter future. Approximately 390 students were eligible to participate in the ceremony at the HTC Center.

Fitsanakis, a professor of intelligence and security studies, is a native of the Greek Islands. He shared with the graduates what it was like for him to come to the United States and experience his first Fourth of July celebration complete with ribs, “which I didn’t know you could eat this part of the animal,” and American football. He quipped, “I was like, wait, how is this football? First off, they rarely use their feet. Second, there is no ball. A ball is round. This is not a ball, it’s an egg. It should not be called ‘foot-ball.’ It should be called ‘hand-egg.’”

He went on to talk about how in other parts of the world, differences are not always welcomed. “But then I actually began to observe America, as someone looking in from the outside. And the more I paid attention, the more intrigued I became. I was amazed by how welcoming and accepting everyone was. America is truly a mixture of humanity, and people are proud of that. … Do you realize how amazing this is? How unique? And how tragic it would be – not just for America, but for the world – if we lost it?

Fitsanakis said there is no guarantee that America will always progress toward a brighter future. He told the graduates, “That will be up to its people. It will be up to you.”

In closing, he said, “Do not treat those who disagree with you as enemies. Do not seek to humiliate them, to silence them, or to crush them. Because, when the pendulum swings – and believe me, it will – they will seek to do the same to you. And that is how the cycle of violence, that many of your ancestors came here to escape from, begins. To make this country stronger, you should be okay with sharing it with people who don’t agree with you.

“The best way to make your professors proud, to make your University proud, to make this country proud, is by remembering that, people who don’t share your views, are just as American as you. Be forces of unity, not forces of division. Follow that in whatever you do, as you start working, as you begin your family, when you vote – even when you are playing ‘hand-egg.’

“CCU Class of 2021: The world awaits you. This country needs you. Go out there, and make your mark. We, your professors, will be watching.”

One student received the President’s Award for Academic Achievement, which recognizes students with the highest cumulative grade point averages. Abigail Kathleen Solarz, a marine science major from Mount Juliet, Tenn., earned perfect 4.0 grade point average, graduating summa cum laude.