Introduction of Commencement Speaker
Dr. Donald R. Eastman, III, President of Eckerd College
Now, we are honored to welcome as the last speaker of our academic year a man whose entire professional life has been committed to the service of his country and whose goal continues to be peace.
Senator Bill Nelson served his country as a captain in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1971, both on active duty and in the Reserve. Senator Nelson's public service career began in 1972 with his election to the Florida Legislature. Elected to the United States Congress in 1978, he served six terms representing Orlando and the Space Coast. In January 1986, he spent six days orbiting Earth as an astronaut aboard the space shuttle Columbia. In 1994, Senator Nelson was elected to the Florida Cabinet as state Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal.
During his six-year term of office, he fought for affordable home insurance rates, cracked down on life and burial insurance sales abuses that targeted the elderly and minorities, and forced European insurers to honor unpaid Holocaust-era claims.
He was elected to the United States Senate in 2000 and currently serves on five key committees - Commerce, Budget, Finance, Intelligence, and Aging - and is recognized as the leading congressional expert on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
As a member of the Senate's Commerce Committee, Senator Nelson has supported measures to protect consumers from identity theft and worked on legislation to stop unsolicited e-mails. Other priorities he has championed during his Senate tenure include: preventing oil drilling off Florida's coast; and ensuring quality health care and benefits for seniors and for military veterans and their spouses.
In the wake of the 2004 hurricane season, he worked to secure adequate federal relief for storm victims.
A fifth-generation Floridian, Senator Nelson was born in Miami and educated in Melbourne's public schools. He received a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Virginia. He has been married to his wife, Grace, since 1972 and has two grown children, Nan Ellen and Bill Junior.
Please join me in extending a very warm welcome to Florida Senior United States Senator Bill Nelson.