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Excelsior's Summer Graduation

Photo: Fred and Jana Bartlit with Lulu at Excelsior's Summer Graduation

By Joan Gabrielson, Executive Director

Excelsior was honored to have Fred Bartlit as our graduation speaker for the Summer 2012 Graduation Ceremonies. Our four graduates, Tifani, Jessica, Natasha and Becky, saw themselves in his personal story of a tough childhood in Chicago with huge obstacles to overcome just to graduate from high school. Fred talked about being called names in high school and being told he wasn't smart enough. "So, my mom said I had to work twice as hard as the other kids just to graduate. And, I did", Fred told the graduates. He talked about how hard these four graduates had worked to complete their high school education and that this same hard work would serve them well in the future as it had for him.

We learned from Principal Jann Clevenger's introduction of Mr. Bartlit that after graduation from high school, Fred went on to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Engineering. Fred served in the United States Army with the Distinguished Army Ranger Detachment and received a National Defense Service Medal. Fred earned a law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law, graduating with the top academic record in the history of the University.

As an attorney, Fred has represented many large corporations and conducted trials all over the United States and overseas. He was Trial Counsel for President Bush in the 2000 election trials in Tallahassee. Most recently, Fred was appointed by President Obama to be Chief Counsel of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. In addition, the findings from Fred's investigation into the cause of the North Sea Oil disaster in 1988 led to widespread changes in drilling practices in the North Sea.

After his speech at graduation, several family members of our graduates thanked Fred and said how powerful and meaningful his words were for them. His story resonated with our girls and their families because he knew where they had come from, how hard they had worked, the significance of their success that day and he encouraged them to achieve even more in the future.