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Bush Addresses Graduates of Gulf Coast College

President Bush paid another visit Thursday to the hurricane-ravaged U.S. Gulf Coast, this time to honor the graduates of one local college. These students got their degrees in one of the communities hardest hit by hurricane Katrina.

The president gives several graduation speeches every year, usually to students at major universities.

But this year, he chose to visit a small, community-based school that found itself in the eye of a hurricane.

"I am proud to stand before some of the most determined students at any college or university in America," said Mr. Bush.

He spoke at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in the city of Biloxi, addressing the students in a stadium still under repair, near streets lined with temporary housing.

"Over the last nine months, you have shown resilience more powerful than any storm," he added. "You continued your studies in classrooms with crumbling walls. You lost homes, and slept in tents near campus to finish courses. You cleared debris during the day, and you went to class at night, working past exhaustion to catch up."

Like community colleges across the country, Mississippi Gulf Coast offers a low-cost, locally based alternative to students of all ages, many of whom hold full-time jobs or are raising families.

President Bush urged the new graduates to take the skills they learned in school and use them to help their state and the region rebuild.

"I ask you to rise to the challenge of a generation: Apply your skill and your knowledge, your compassion and your character, and write a hopeful new chapter in the history of the Gulf Coast," he said.

The president said he is convinced a new vitality will emerge from the rubble of Hurricane Katrina. He said, in time, cities from Mobile, Alabama to Biloxi, Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana will be whole again.