U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a graduate of Lane Community College in Eugene, shared her experience and advice Friday with graduates of Clatsop Community College.
The college awarded more than 150 degrees and career certificates at Patriot Hall. The Oregon Democrat was the most high-profile politician to give the keynote speech at graduation since Gov. Kate Brown, who spoke in 2015.
Bonamici pushed graduates to take risks, keep their integrity and kindness, appreciate those who have helped them, stay informed and engaged, learn different viewpoints and make art part of their lives.
“Access to education levels the playing field,” the congresswoman said. “That’s important. Education can give students from every background the opportunity to succeed and to thrive.”
Bonamici, originally from Michigan, said she jumped in a van with some friends, looking for adventure, and ended up in Eugene. She enrolled in a legal assistant program at Lane Community College and later attended law school at the University of Oregon.
To help pay for college, she worked at Lane County Legal Aid, a group providing legal assistance to low-income people. After college, she became a consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission and later entered private practice in Portland representing small businesses.
After having children, Bonamici took a break from practicing law. She later advocated for education funding locally and in Salem and became a legislative assistant in 2001.
Voters elected her to the state House in 2006, the state Senate in 2008 and the U.S. House in 2012. Her tenure in Congress has largely focused on education, science and the environment.
“The lessons I learned starting in community college and at Legal Aid shaped my future in ways I couldn’t imagine at the time,” she said. “I’m confident that your experiences here at Clatsop Community College will shape your future as well, and very likely in ways you cannot imagine now.”