Jeff Dunn, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, encouraged Troy University graduates to be grateful, civil to others and serve those around them during Monday’s commencement at the University’s Montgomery Campus.
Speaking to nearly 120 graduates inside the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts on Monday night, Dunn encouraged those in attendance to adopt “an attitude of gratitude.”
“Tomorrow morning when you wake up, make a list of things for which you are grateful,” Dunn said. “Do you know that you are entering a very exclusive group? Only 7 percent of the world’s population has any sort of college degree. So cultivate an attitude of gratitude.”
Dunn called the increasing lack of civility in today’s society a disturbing trend.
“It seems there is this current unspoken rule out there that if I disagree with you that gives me permission to be disrespectful, uncivil and even mean,” he said. “I want to encourage you to reject the trend of incivility in our society and be part of a new trend – a trend that embraces a return to something as simple as the Golden Rule in civil discourse. I believe that civility in debating ideas is a key component of a free and civil society. If we lose the ability to be civil and respectful in our disagreements, we risk losing our free society. We must not forfeit the marketplace of ideas where rigorous, respectful debate flourishes to a cage match of name-calling and personal attacks. Be the generation that sees and promotes the God-given, intrinsic value of the human being who is worthy of respect regardless of their point of view.”
In closing his remarks, Dunn encouraged graduates to consider how they will make their mark on the world.
“Our service gives purpose and direction to our lives,” he said. “First, start with your service to God. By doing so you will ensure that you will live with a higher purpose. Don’t neglect or underestimate the power and importance of paying attention to your spiritual life. Second, consider your service to your neighbor. Use all of your gifts, talents and abilities to serve those around you, and you will experience a quality of success that few attain in this life.”
As commissioner, Dunn leads Alabama’s largest law enforcement agency, managing an inmate population of more than 20,000 offenders in 26 correctional institutions; employs a workforce of more than 3,300 correctional officers, supervisors and support staff; and, operates on an annual budget exceeding $500 million.
Prior to his current appointment, Dunn had a 28-year career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring at the rank of colonel.