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Palm beach Atlantic University's American Free Enterprise Day

American Free Enterprise Day

American Free Enterprise Day (AFE) is a Palm Beach Atlantic University tradition, dating back to 1984. It is highlighted by a medal ceremony that honors individuals whose hard work and achievement exemplify the best of the American free enterprise system. A medalist of the year is selected and companion medals are awarded to other business leaders as well.

We are pleased to announce that 32nd annual AFE will be held on November 14, 2017. 

American Free Enterprise Day 2016

Palm beach Atlantic University's American Free Enterprise Day honoree Kenneth Langone 2016

Kenneth Langone, a giant of American free enterprise and philanthropy best known as a cofounder of The Home Depot, tells people there are three powerful things in life: a kind word, a thoughtful gesture and enthusiasm for what you do.

“I would have probably paid to go to work every day because I always loved what I was doing,” Langone said at Palm Beach Atlantic University on Thursday during PBA’s 31st annual American Free Enterprise celebration.

Langone, who also is the founder of Invemed Associates, was honored as the recipient of the University’s prestigious American Free Enterprise medal. Held in the Rubin Arena of the Greene Complex for Sports and Recreation and attended by several hundred students, faculty, staff and guests, the event has become an annual tradition at PBA.

To the students, he said, “I wish I was 21 today. I think the opportunities and the challenges that create opportunities have never been better in America than they are this very day.”

He urged students to “leave here with optimism, enthusiasm and passion, because if you do that you’re going to have a much better chance of being one of the winners” in the free enterprise system.

Just as there are winners, there also are losers, he said. “But you don’t have to be a loser if you approach life with passion, honor and integrity.”

Langone was the lead director of The Home Depot and a member of its executive committee since it was founded in 1978 until 2008 when he retired. But he said he still enjoys going into the stores and meeting with the associates.

“I call them kids. I assure them there’s a simple definition. If you’re under 81, you’re a kid,” he joked.

The son of a plumber and a cafeteria worker, Langone said that one of the keys to success is never compromising one’s integrity or reputation. “Once you sully that, nothing else matters.”

He also spoke about the importance of faith in his life and career. He said it isn’t a coincidence that he began to read the Bible every morning around the time he and his business partners successfully founded The Home Depot.

“It’s all in that one book,” said Langone, a devout Roman Catholic. “If you apply it to your life, good things will happen.”

Palm Beach Atlantic 2016 AFE honoree Ken LangoneHe also encouraged people to never give up and always work hard. In addition, “anything that you can do that motivates people to believe they’re a part of (your cause) and they can make a difference, do it, and it will pay enormous dividends. Everybody wants to be part of something. We’re joiners.”

Langone said that on the same day employees come to work at Home Depot, they become stockholders. The company has 400,000 full-time associates, a total that increases seasonally to 500,000.

Today, 3,000 of those associates who started out working in the lot pushing carts and helping people load items into their vehicles have become multimillionaires, Langone said.

“Capitalism works, and the minute we all understand how capitalism works, the better off we’ll be as a nation.”

He also spoke about the importance of philanthropy. He and his wife, Elaine, support causes that benefit children, higher education and healthcare.

“There’s nothing wrong with being successful,” he said. “There’s everything wrong with being successful and not realizing the obligation it puts on you to leave this place a little better than you found it. That’s the genius and the greatness of America.”

Also honored on Thursday were three companion medalists: Yvonne Boice, a businesswoman and philanthropist; Alan Crowetz, president and CEO of the computer and business consulting firm InfoStream, Inc; and Rob Morris, owner and operator of two Chick-fil-A restaurants in West Palm Beach and consultant for a third location.

The 2015 AFE medalist, Leo Vecellio, and former companion medalists Fabiola Brumley, Paul Donahue and Ken Kennerly participated in the award presentation. PBA Provost Dr. Gene Fant gave the invocation, and Dr. Ken Mahanes, special adviser to PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr., gave the benediction.

For Langone's full speech, click here

Three Honored as 2016 Companion Medalists

Three prominent figures in the Palm Beach County business community were honored with companion medals during Palm Beach Atlantic University’s American Free Enterprise Day ceremony:

  • Yvonne Boice is a businesswoman and philanthropist;
  • Alan Crowetz is president and CEO of InfoStream, Inc., a computer and business-consulting firm based in West Palm Beach;
  • Rob Morris, who owns and operates two Chik-fil-A restaurants in West Palm Beach and he consults for a third location.

Click here to read more.

Click here to read about our past AFE recipients: Leo A. Vecellio Jr., chairman and president of Vecellio Group Inc., one of the nation's top 400 contractors, 2015; Arthur L. Williams, Jr., a former high school football coach whose second career transformed the life insurance industry, 2014; Tim Gannon, entrepreneur, restaurateur and champion polo player, 2013; Brian P. Burns, attorney, entrepreneur and philanthropist, 2012; H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr., president of Huizenga Holdings, Inc., 2011; Edward M. Kobel, president and chief operating officer of DeBartolo Development, LLC, 2010; John D. MacArthur, insurance and real estate entrepreneur, 2009; John M. Gregory, managing partner of SJ Strategic Investments, LLC, 2008; Karl H. Watson, CEMEX, 2007; Stuart W. Epperson, Salem Communications Corporation, 2004; Sam Moore, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2003; Joseph R. Gregory, Kingsway L.L.C., 2002; Lester J. Woerner, Woerner Holdings, Inc, 2001; and Rich DeVos, 2000, Orlando Magic. 

American Free Enterprise Statement

PBA President William M.B. Fleming, Jr. (left), 2013 AFE Medalist/Outback Steakhouse Founder Tim Gannon and 2012 Medalist/philanthropist Brian Burns enjoy AFE festivities.
PBA President William M.B. Fleming, Jr. (left), 2013 AFE Medalist/Outback Steakhouse Founder Tim Gannon and 2012 Medalist/philanthropist Brian Burns enjoy AFE festivities

Palm Beach Atlantic University confidently affirms the values and institutions that historically have informed American society—religious liberty; traditional Judeo-Christian morality; limited, constitutional government; the Rule of Law; personal and political accountability; and capitalism—the system of free enterprise. We believe that America is truly an exceptional nation, which was founded and has flourished under the guiding providential hand of God. We aim to develop in each of our students an appreciation for the unique American achievement in its many dimensions—social, political, economic, moral, legal, and religious.

Our general education curriculum, required of all students, includes a course entitled “Freedom in American Society,” which examines the meaning and significance of freedom in the American experience. 

Students explore such topics as the historical roots of American liberty, with special emphasis on the close link between liberty and Christianity, and the nature of freedom as understood by the chief architects of the American political order. They examine the interdependence between political and economic freedom, in particular, the significance of free-enterprise capitalism for the preservation of liberty. They learn about the structure of American constitutional democracy and the traditional meaning of justice and the

Rule of Law.

These studies help students recognize the various threats to individual freedom, religious liberty, and other traditional American rights and values that have emerged over the past several centuries, as well as contemporary challenges to their preservation.

Cicero remarked of the declining Republic of his era: “Our age . . . inherited the Republic like some beautiful painting of bygone days, its colors already fading through great age; and not only has our time neglected to freshen the colors of the picture, but we have failed to preserve its form and outlines.”

Palm Beach Atlantic University strives to ensure that a similar fate does not befall the noble American experiment in ordered liberty. We regard the transmission of the American cultural heritage to the rising generation as not only a profound joy, but also a profound duty.