Astronaut Clayton Anderson was the keynote speaker for the 46th annual commencement ceremonies at three Central Community College campus graduations Saturday.
Although Anderson recently retired from NASA after a 30-year career, he remains "Nebraska's Astronaut." Born in Omaha and raised in Ashland, he now resides near Houston, Texas, with his wife, Susan, and their children, Cole and Sutton Marie.
Anderson had a strong message for the graduating students, encouraging them not to quit and to dream big.
"Succeeding at this space gig was very hard for me," he said. "I tried 15 times to become an astronaut, and I was on the verge of giving up. On my thirteenth try I even got an interview, so for 13 years I didn't even get a sniff from those guys, and then after my selection I questioned my decision to fly in the space station."
Anderson went on to say he loved every minute of his 30–year career, and "felt like Superman every day."
He accumulated 167 days in space. He also spent nearly 40 hours in space itself when he helped build the space station through the execution of six space walks, placing him twenty-seventh on the world record list.
"We're pretty happy with our choice of keynote speakers, and we're thrilled Clayton Anderson made time to come and speak at three of our commencements," Greg Smith, president of CCC said. "We're thrilled."
Smith said 90 percent of their students receive degrees in career and technical areas, and a majority of them begin their careers after commencement.