"You are part of a very elite group, you have a lot of people to share the credit with and we are expecting a lot from you. In fact, we have a lot riding on your success," said Wicker, R-Miss., who has been heralded for his statesmanship and diplomacy at the state and federal level.
Wicker said he has been coming to the Grove for as long as he can remember, with his family when he was a child, then as a student and then as the parent of two graduates. His advice to graduate is to use, first, caution and then a sense of history, which leads to a feeling of obligation.
"A lot of people who win the lottery end up going broke," Wicker said. "Others are sensible and make good use of their fortunes. This is true of civilizations, and it can be true of a generation. Your collective birthright can be squandered on riotous living like the Bible's prodigal son, or it can be used as a foundation for greater opportunity.
"We are witnessing that choice right now, being made on a global scale. So be careful with the bounty that has been bequeathed to you."
The university's 159th commencement included 2,395 candidates for degrees, along with 968 August candidates. Graduates and family members gathered to observe the speeches and academic heraldry.
Among the attendees, Michael and Gwen Langhart of Tylertown came to watch their son Alex graduate with a bachelor of arts in psychology.
"My daughter graduated from here four years ago, and my wife went here, so we are tickled to death," said Michael Langhart. "Alex has always wanted to come to Ole Miss, and he has loved being here."
Following the general ceremony, the College of Liberal Arts and the Oxford campus' eight schools held separate ceremonies to present baccalaureate, master's, doctor of pharmacy and law diplomas.