At the 92nd annual Spring Commencement ceremonies at Jones College, State Auditor Shad White of Sandersville challenged graduates to “own” their destinies, work hard and set a course toward achieving their goals.
The University of Mississippi graduate earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and political science and is a Truman Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar. Additionally, White earned his Juris Doctorate degree from Harvard Law School and has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He shared with the nearly 700 Jones College graduates and guests at the two ceremonies, that with all of his education, he was confident he would be successful in his pursuit of making positive, public policy working on the East Coast.
However, he realized his success was dependent upon something else. While explaining the difference between independence and ownership, White shared, “No one will sacrifice for you or work harder to find success than yourself.” While being independent has its benefits, White explained, “If you have taken ownership of your own life, you won’t want to sleep through the alarm clock because you know that would stand in the way of your goal.”
While watching his dad work hard all day as an oilfield pumper in Sandersville, as well as being the current mayor and former alderman of Sandersville, White learned through his dad that it was also his responsibility to give back to his community. However, the Northeast Jones High School graduate said he discovered not all service was created equal.
“I watched my friends embark on careers with a similar goal of (myself), making a difference in public service. Many of them, within a short amount of time, started to realize that their ability to make change depended not just on their willingness to work hard, but also on whether their boss had enough political power to make change happen,” said White.
White’s “lightbulb” moment forced him to change his thinking. Instead of working in Washington, D.C., he returned to Mississippi to take ownership of his life. His admiration of former state Rep. Alan Nunnelee inspired him to volunteer for his campaign. After sweeping floors, White was given bigger responsibilities that eventually caught the interest of Gov. Phil Bryant and earned his appointment as State Auditor in 2018.
“We both had a passion for policy that helps working people. … (Bryant) had served as state auditor and we both had a passion for law enforcement and stopping corruption,” White said. “I realized that I needed to set a goal and make sacrifices to achieve that goal (even if I would be) making a little less money than I would otherwise, working much longer hours, sleeping less, (and) tending some random landlord’s tomato garden, that I got lucky and met Governor Bryant. There’s truth in that old adage that, the harder you work, the luckier you get.”