Mercer alum Claude Kicklighter speaks to students on Founder’s Day

Mercer University welcomed General Claude M. Kicklighter at the annual Founder’s Day hosted by the Student Government Association this Feb. 4. Every year an outstanding Mercer alum is invited to discuss how the establishment impacted their success.

General Kicklighter received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, class of 1955 and served in the Vietnam War. Kicklighter has served his country for over 50 years and has recently retired after holding several positions in the Departments of Defense, State and Veteran Affairs.

At 10 a.m., Willingham Hall filled with students, faculty and veterans who had come to hear the respected general speak. After listening to the Mercer Singers perform “America the Beautiful”, Kicklighter addressed the crowd.

The general said that Mercer gave him three gifts: a Bachelor’s degree, an Army commission and his wife. “Mercer gave me the foundation that I needed on a journey of service to my country,” said General Kicklighter.

Throughout his life, the veteran found three qualities that resonated strongly within him. These qualities included faith, family and friends. When addressing the topic of family, Kicklighter advised students, “Love your family unconditionally and make sure they know it.”

“The Army defines character as who a person is, what a person believes and how a person acts,” General Kicklighter said. He listed other traits of character such as courage, ingenuity, maturity, sense of humor, humility, compassion and vision in caring for others.

General Kicklighter continued to address his message of discovering your own path to the student body of Mercer saying, “the values you choose to live by determine your success, your happiness, the character of the person you into.”

“One of the most important things for any leader is to have a vision of who you want to become, of who you’re called to be.” said the Mercer alum.”My chosen path has been filled with successes, failures and heartaches and second chances.”

Kicklighter went on to commend veterans from the American Revolution, Civil War, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War on their courage, sacrifice and dedication. General Kicklighter discussed the commemorative plan to thank and honor those who served in the Vietnam War, which is acknowledging its 50th anniversary.

Kicklighter brought his speech to an end addressing students once more, saying “ Wherever you’re calling for your path lay, do your best and solve the challenges and opportunities and you’ll keep this nation great.” The audience applauded him and soon Mayor Robert Reichart took the stage.

Reichart conceded that he was not only speaking as the Mayor of Macon, Georgia but also as a Vietnam veteran and a Mercer graduate. The mayor teared up as he said, “I have talked more about my experience there in the last 24 hours than I have in the past 25 years.”

The mayor went on to discuss his initial schooling at the University of Georgia, the audience laughed as Reichart said, “I spent two years having the most wonderful time of my life to the point I was asked to go home and think about it.”

The mayor remembered eventually receiving his law degree from Mercer after serving in Vietnam and thanked the university for “the healing, for the education and for the opportunity that you gave me.”

After the Mayor concluded, Vietnam veterans were asked to stand as General Kicklighter and Mercer University President , William Underwood, awarded each former soldier with a pin of commemoration. Several veterans shed tears at the award.

“I think it’s great that we are honoring our veterans,” said Vivian Goodwin, a freshman who attended the speech. “It’s easy to forget how hard it is to experience war. General Kicklighter is inspirational.”