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McRaney to grads: Time to make mark

In front of a packed auditorium at Southwest MississippiCommunity College on Saturday, actor Gerald McRaney told the sixthgraduating class of the Mississippi School of the Arts that thereis no better time to begin making their mark on the world aroundthem.

“There is no other place to start than here, and there is noother time than now,” he said. “Having been here and met some ofyou, and looking at your faces how, I can tell you there will havebeen no better place to have started than the Mississippi School ofthe Arts, and no better time than now.”

McRaney told the group whether they were artists, actors andmusicians or accountants, lawyers and doctors, they could stilltake something from their education at MSA.

“You can be an artist while you’re about it, and you will havean exciting life. Live it,” he said. “And promise yourself you willnot sleep each night until you have made something beautiful.”

Artists serve a special place in society, said McRaney, who hassaid several times since his visit to the school in late Februarythat he wished there had been such a place to study when he was inschool.

“A really good thing about this school is that it has all thearts under one roof so you can appreciate all the art that is inyou, even if it’s not your strong suit,” he said. “MSA has givenyou more than painting or sculpting experience, or stage presenceor dance and voice techniques. Those are elements of craft, andthat’s not what this is about. You have learned to think likeartists.”

He also told the group that commencement is not necessarily thestarting point on their journey to becoming who they will be, bothas adults and as artists.

“For most of you that happened a long time ago,” he said. “Itwas that moment that led you to MSA, and your time is well spenthere … Because artists don’t just polish the thin veneer oncivilization, risking the possibility of rubbing it off, they addlayers and illuminate the dark places.”

MSA Executive Director Suzanne Hirsch told the audience thatMcRaney was the first celebrity to take a real interest in theschool, especially since February.

“That day he graciously gave us a morning of his time, and hepledged to help spread our message far and wide,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hirsch said the graduating class so far has over $2.5million in scholarship offers, with 100 percent of the senior classgraduating and 61 percent of that with a 90 average or above.

“We all are just proud to have been here for your beginning,”she told the class.

And valedictorian Jules Wood, who will take a year off and workat an orphanage in Singapore before going to the University ofCalifornia at Los Angeles, told her classmates they were about toembark on the journeys of their lives.

“Let us live like free men, not bound by our fates, but creatingthem,” she said.