Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux launched nearly 600 graduates into their futures with six principles that he’s gleaned from working in the highest echelons of government and the private sector.
LeMieux spoke at the University’s May commencement at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. He has served as Florida’s 34th United States Senator in the 111th Congress, the state’s deputy attorney general and the governor’s chief of staff. He is chairman of the board of Gunster law firm and is founder of the University’s LeMieux Center for Public Policy.
LeMieux distilled his life principles into 12 words: Find purpose. Work hard. Nurture relationships. Give back. Keep fit. Be grateful.
“God has put you here for a reason,” LeMieux told the graduates. “He has given you enormous talent. Use those talents and find your calling.”
Graduates may find their calling as a nurse, doctor, pharmacist, teacher, lawyer, engineer, architect or homebuilder — or they may do several jobs. But they should find a job that makes them happy or find a new job, LeMieux said.
“Happiness is not found in money or fame or prestige. It is found in something that you love to do,” LeMieux said.
LeMieux cited a Princeton University study, in which researchers interviewed 450,000 Americans and found that a person who makes $750,000 per year or $7.5 million a year was not incrementally happier than a person who makes $75,000 per year.
Likewise, there will always be people who are more talented, more privileged, smarter or better-looking — but there is no substitute for hard work, LeMieux said.
“If you work at what you enjoy, if you find purpose and you work hard at it, I guarantee you, you will be successful,” he said.
LeMieux encouraged graduates to work hard at relationships, loving their parents, brothers, sisters, spouses and children. He urged them to make friends and care for them by calling, writing to them or visiting.
“Don’t ever neglect or lose a friend,” he said. “Relationships take work. They take time. You have to invest in them.”
LeMieux acknowledged this fourth life lesson — give back — is one that the graduates have already learned as Christians and as students completing their Workship hours. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James affirmed that in his earlier remarks, when he said PBA students make up the city’s largest group of volunteers.
“You get satisfaction and joy from helping others,” LeMieux said. “It is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us — the joy of helping others.”
LeMieux experiences that feeling every spring when he works on research projects with two upperclassmen in the LeMieux Center for Public Policy. Although they enjoy it, he enjoys it more because he spends time helping them, he said.
Last, and most important of LeMieux’s life principles: Be grateful.
“You have won the birth lottery,” LeMieux said. “You sit here in Palm Beach County, Florida, the greatest state in the greatest and most prosperous country the world has ever known.”
Earlier in the ceremony, outstanding graduates Charis Flake and Allison Rice, shared their reflections.
Flake, a student in the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program, exhorted her peers to be givers, specifically givers of real life found only in Christ. She encouraged them with Paul’s words to Timothy: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
Rice, also in the Supper Honors Program, shared what she learned from reading St. Augustine and Wendell Berry: We are most fulfilled when we find rest in God rather than running after worldly success, and the world can be trusted not to give you what you wanted but the pleasures you have not thought to want.
She ended with reminder to her fellow graduates to find their rest in God and thank Him for His gracious gifts each day.
“Out of His love, he created us, and in this love, He sustains us, inviting us into an eternal, life-fulfilling relationship with Him through Jesus.”
Photo 1: Former U.S. Senator George LeMieux delivers the commencement address to nearly 600 graduates at the Palm Beach County Convention Center during the graduation ceremony.
Photo 2: Charis Flake, the outstanding graduate for the School of Communication and Media, shares her reflections with nearly 600 graduates at the spring commencement ceremony at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on May 6, 2019.