Gov. Andy Beshear addresses Kentucky Governor’s Scholars at Centre College

A man with a microphone talks to an audience.

Centre College welcomed Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear back to campus to address the high school students from around the state taking part in the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program.

“You are in one of the best programs offered anywhere in the country,” he said. “Just a life-changing experience that I still look back on today as one of the most important times of my life.”

A 1995 alumnus of the program, Beshear addressed this year’s participants in the Norton Center for the Arts’ Weisiger Theatre, offering a rundown of economic development and policy achievements before taking questions from the students.

Students from across the state asked questions about his time at GSP, his journey through law school and his time as governor.

A man points into the audience while speaking from a stage.

Many of his responses centered around a theme of compassion and understanding, something he tied to his GSP experience of meeting new people and learning from his fellow participants.

“I like the whole program, but mostly getting to know people and learning from different cultures and different people’s backgrounds,” he said. “That made me a better listener than I certainly was at that time. And I liked not feeling alone, because we all sometimes feel alone.”

He shared advice for students interested in politics and a career in law.

“If you want to go to law school, find something in college that you like,” he said. “You don't have to study political science. You don't have to study any particular thing. What you have to do s become as creative of a thinker as possible.”

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the came after Beshear fielded a question about the daily addresses he offered via livestream during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was hard on everyone,” he said. “And no one thanks you. And you should be thanked. You all had to give up opportunities that you couldn’t get back. But I think it was that sacrifice that's going to make you all a really special generation. … Your all’s willingness to make those sacrifices means that there are lots of people alive today who wouldn't be.”

A man looks into the audience while speaking from a stage.

Beshear’s voice cracked as he talked about reading the names of those who died during the pandemic.

“The hardest thing I've ever done is read the death list every day,” he said. “But I kept doing it because I didn’t want anybody else to have it.

“We lost more people in the pandemic than we lost in the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World War II put together. We would have lost more if not for your all’s actions.”