PROVO — The 41/2 hour drive Mike and Kathy Ziegenfelder made from Pinedale, Wyo., to the BYU campus in Provo seemed like a small gesture to cheer on their son Paul as he walked across the floor of the Marriott Center during summer commencement exercises Thursday.
"It is the cherry on top," the grad's father said of the exercises. "It was worth coming down for, and it is the reward. He's earned it."
The recent grad — who earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering — said it was a great finish to his college career, and a good reminder of what his education means.
"As I was sitting there, I realized the impact I can have as a BYU graduate and what I should be shooting for as I represent BYU in my profession," he said.
Those thoughts came to him as David L. Beck, Young Men president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke to the 2,357 graduates and their supporters about their responsibility to be "a standard to the nations."
"Each of you, who have been given so much, has a duty to shine," Beck said. "To do this, you must shun the ungodly influences in the world and maintain high standards. The path of mediocrity can never be yours. To be seen as a standard, your life must be one of distinction and excellence."
Sharing examples of BYU graduates whose lives stand as a standard for the nations, Beck taught the importance of a principled life of goodness and distinction.
One example Beck shared was of a man named Wilford A. Cardon, who, after serving as a mission president in Brazil, returned to help others around the world in developing countries gain an education.
To date, 252 students from 45 countries have participated in Cardon's program, and in addition to successful careers, many have held responsible church leadership positions.
Three of those recipients now serve as general authorities, and others have served in many capacities within the church.
Beck also looked to the example of the late Stephen R. Covey as a person whose life and service has been a standard for the nations.
"He had a keen sense of the mission God had for him to perform, and he was true to that mission," Beck said. "Because of that, people everywhere were attracted to the light that radiated from him. He demonstrated the credibility and persuasive power one has when his personal standard is a Christ-centered life."
BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson, alumni president Michael O'Conner and graduate Julianne Long shared remarks. Separate college convocations are scheduled to be held at various times and locations today.