Chosen by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute as one of the top All-American Colleges, Southern Virginia University provides an academic culture for undergraduate, liberal arts studies that is founded upon the principles taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to by the media and others as the Mormon Church.)
The University, founded in 1867 and resumed in 1996, is fixed in the august Shenandoah Valley at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and rests upon a tree-shaded hill in Buena Vista, Virginia. As of the fall of 2012, there were 729 students enrolled yielding a 16:1 student-faculty ratio, with 92% of the university’s populace being Latter-day Saints (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)
Mitt Romney Delivers Commencement Address at Southern Virginia University
On Saturday, 27 April 2013, in only his second public speech since losing the 2012 presidential election, former Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ, addressed students at Southern Virginia University. More than 1800 people gathered on the lawn in front of the university’s historic Main Hall to hear Romney’s commencement speech which he delivered to the 125 graduates during the 145th commencement exercises.
Graduate Kambyl Borries remarked, “We had so many rumors going around campus about who was going to be our commencement speaker. And it was everything from little church leaders to other government officials. And then we found out that it was going to be Romney, that’s a really big step for southern Virginia.” Dr. Richard G. Whitehead, Acting President of the university, stated that he believed that Romney was an excellent choice as speaker for the auspicious event.
Mitt Romney Encourages Graduates to Live Abundant Lives
Romney’s message included both scriptures and life experiences as he spoke of family values and hard work. He encouraged the graduates to challenge themselves in all of their future endeavors. He used a passage of scripture recorded in Luke’s gospel as the theme for his address.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. (Luke 5:4-6)
He told the students, “Every one of you here today as a graduate can live an abundant life, every single one of you.” He remarked that to marry, to have children, and to serve God are paths that lead to living that abundant, happy life. He further exhorted the graduates,
You only live one life. Don’t spend it in safe, shallow water. Launch into the deep. If you meet a person you love, get married. Have a quiver full of kids if you can. Give more to your occupation than is expected of you. Serve God by serving his children. 
Live for purposes greater than yourself. Lose yourself in the service of others. The promise is this: Launch out into the deep, and your nets will be filled. 
During the course of his message, he spoke of a different type of “launching out into the deep” – the missionary work that many Mormons embark on upon graduation from school. He told the students that the time spent serving a mission can be both hard and rewarding.
Mission years are the best years because they are the hardest years,” Romney said. “They are living life to the fullest, beyond oneself, beyond comfort. Serving God takes us into the deep waters of life. 
Mitt Romney Offers a Few Words of Caution
In conjunction with his words of encouragement, Romney also offered these words of caution:
I don’t think God cares whether you get rich … life on this Earth is about learning to live and work in a place where God does not make everything work out for good people,” he said. “The best advice I know is to give those worldly things your best but never your all. 
Romney shook hands with each graduate after they were conferred their diplomas.
Several of the graduates commented on Romney’s remarks:
“I really enjoyed it. It kind of gave me a new prospective on not staying where I am right now,” said graduate, Jordan Clark. “But really reaching out for my potential on what I want to do in life and not just be happy with the status quo. But really force myself to go to uncomfortable measures if I need to.”
“I was expecting something big and phenomenal and I was so glad it wasn’t. It was the basic things that I wanted to remember with my family,” said graduate Robert Burton.
Romney was also awarded an honorary Doctorate degree by University leaders.