|State Sen. Joe Negron speaks during Palm Beach Atlantic University's spring commencement ceremony at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.|
State Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) was true to his word when he promised to keep his remarks brief on Saturday during Palm Beach Atlantic University’s spring commencement. Yet though his remarks were brief, Sen. Negron packed a lot of wisdom in three succinct points.
Held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, the afternoon ceremony included a tribute to one of PBA’s founding fathers and a posthumous degree presentation to a father of four who met with an untimely death in March.
In a speech lasting just under seven minutes, Sen. Negron, who chairs the Florida Senate’s Appropriations Committee, reminded the graduating class of more than 500 students that it’s fine to have questions and doubts.
“I submit to you that doubt undeservedly suffers from a maligned reputation,” he said. “I now view doubt not as a condition to be overcome but rather a virtue to be cherished.”
Those who have questions and doubts are in good company, he said, noting that Mother Theresa, Job, the prophet Isaiah, Thomas the disciple and others also faced doubts.
“I believe an embrace of doubt can lead us to an informed journey of faith,” he said.
Secondly, Sen. Negron challenged the graduating seniors to “grapple with the discomfort and awkwardness as your Christian worldview collides with the norms of our modern Western culture,” he said.
He spoke of “the perplexing dichotomy that exists between what we do as Americans in the 21st century and what Jesus taught his disciples to do in the first century.”
Sen. Negron said he doesn’t claim to have the answers. “I only ask that you not explain away or ignore this philosophical tension. I hope you will instead struggle with the demands and ideals of your faith as your lives, families and careers unfold,” he said.
|A new Palm Beach Atlantic University graduate receives a congratulatory hug following commencement.|
Finally, the West Palm Beach native offered “optimistic and encouraging news about the great state of Florida,” where the economy is taking off, tourism is up and the population is growing, he said. Florida soon will overtake New York as the third most populous state in the country, he said.
“So today you are receiving a hard-earned college degree from a great university,” he said. “The future is bright, and opportunities abound.”
Retired U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Sen. Negron’s colleague at the Gunster law firm, introduced him.
Also chosen to speak at Saturday’s ceremony were two of this year’s Outstanding Graduates, Alainna Liloia of Washington, N.J., and Brianna Parker of Jensen Beach.
Liloia, whose degree is in biblical and theological studies, will spend the next two years working in international missions. She said she came to PBA as a theatre major with hopes of someday becoming a lawyer. She said her desires changed along the way.
“The reason I loved my time at PBA was because I had the chance to become like Christ,” she said. “I had the chance to choose to turn my heart to my Father in obedience. It's an opportunity he gives us all the time, and as you graduate, I hope you don't think about all that you will do. I hope you will pray about who God wants you to be.”
Parker, a Sailfish softball player whose degree is in nursing, challenged her fellow students to remember the difficult times they’ve endured as well as the joy of celebrating with friends.
|Carlton McCartney's wife, Erica, accepts his degree from PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr. on Saturday.|
“I challenge you to remember this moment today, where all of your hard work and sacrifice has become worth it. All of these experiences have shaped us into the people we are today and will play a role in the future we are about to encounter,” she said.
The ceremony also included two noteworthy absences. The program began with a tribute to the late cardiologist Dr. Donald Warren, PBA’s founding chairman. Dr. Warren passed away on March 31 at age 86.
PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr. described Dr. Warren as a man “who believed that miracles and wonders are still possible at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and that no dream is impossible if God is the one who gives it to you.”
Carlton McCartney, a student in the MacArthur School of Leadership, also died in March, just a few weeks before earning his master’s degree in leadership. He was 42. His wife, Erica, accepted his degree on his behalf.
Also during the program, Dr. John Gregory, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, gave the invocation, and Mark Kaprive, director of Campus Ministries, gave the benediction.