Alabama Gov. Bob Riley urged this year's Alabama Governor's School students to keep their talents in the state during an address at Samford University Friday (June 30).
"I want you back in Alabama," he told the rising high school seniors. "You are the brightest and the best and we cannot afford to lose you to another state."
Riley told the students that the Alabama of today is so different from the past that there is nothing they can want to do that is not available in the state.
"I want you to allow Alabama to help you to be all that you can be," said Riley, speaking to the 87 AGS participants and their families at the conclusion of the two-week honors program for academically gifted students.
Samuel Bush of Andalusia and Jennifer Clegg of Huntsville were named this year's outstanding male and female AGS students. They were selected by AGS students, faculty and staff on the basis of their overall participation and interest in the program. Bush attends Pleasant Home High School. Clegg attends Huntsville High School.
Riley encouraged the students to look forward to change, and embrace it. "If something doesn't change, it's dead," he said.
"Embrace change and let God direct you in everything you do," he said, noting that the country is looking to the south and mid-west for the values that make America great.
He also advised the students, who represented 59 high schools in 31 Alabama counties, to make career decisions based on what they have a passion for doing.
"If you can choose to do what you really love, you'll be a success," said Riley, adding that opportunities for public service can come at different stages of life. He noted that his own venture into public service came 30 years after college graduation and a career in other fields.
"I reached a point in life where I wanted to give something back," said Riley, who was elected governor in 2002 after serving six years in the U.S. Congress.
"You need to stand up for the things that make us uniquely Alabamians, and you need to do it in Alabama," Riley told the students.
Riley was introduced to his audience by Samford president Dr. Andrew Westmoreland and was presented a pewter cup with the AGS logo by AGS director Dr. George Keller.
During AGS, the students enjoyed stimulating academic and extra-curricular activities, exploring a spectrum of arts, humanities and sciences. They participated in a community service project, attended a Birmingham Barons baseball game and traveled to Montgomery for a production of Man of La Mancha at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.