In her address to the University of Minnesota Duluth class of 2015 on Saturday, Senator Amy Klobuchar noted her own roots in the Northland and encouraged graduates to view commencement as just a beginning.
About 1,680 students participated in Saturday's commencement exercises at AMSOIL Arena, and UMD said 2,325 will graduate from the university this year.
As they received their diplomas to cheers from friends and family, Sen. Klobuchar remembered the sacrifices her own family made. Her grandfather, a miner from the Iron Range, had meticulously saved money in a coffee can so her father could go to college.
"I stand here on their shoulders as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner and the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman and the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota," Klobuchar said "Just like you're going to be on this stage, I got on this stage because of my parents and my teachers, and today you're surrounded by those people, so I hope you're going to thank them today."
One graduate, wanted to make sure she did just that, decorating the top of her cap with "Thanks Mom and Dad." It was a big surprise for her parents, Sujatha and Venkata Akurat.
"That was a total surprise, yeah it was a nice moment, nice feeling to get appreciated," Venkata Akurat said.
Srilalitha Akurati spent four years at UMD and graduated Saturday with a degree in cell and molecular biology. She credits her parents as being her main source of motivation and support.
"This is all because of them that I was able to accomplish all this," Srilalitha Akurati said. "It's not anything big, but this hat was just a way to say thanks for just being there."
Srilalitha Akurati said she especially connected with Klobuchar's story about her first job. The Senator said it was as an intern in Vice President Walter Mondale's office doing furniture inventory.
"You better take your first job seriously, because that was my first job in washington and this was my second," Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar also encouraged graduates to love their chosen professions, saying the country needs innovators and creators.
"I am so excited that many of you are going into the area of science that has been a need that we have right now in our country," Klobuchar said.
The family moved to minnesota from india when she was just four years old, and Mom and Dad said they hope graduation is just the beginning for her.
"We only guided her, it's up to her to take it from here and go to the next path," Venkata Akurat said.