Today, Governor Larry Hogan recieved an honorary doctorate and delivered the Spring 2023 Commencement Address to American University School of Public Affairs.
Read his full remarks below:
Good afternoon, President Burwell, Dean Wilkins and Provost Starr. Thank you for this incredible honor. Distinguished guests, faculty members and most especially, the members of the 2023 graduating class of the American University School of Public Affairs. Congratulations! I applaud and congratulate each and every one of you on all of your hard work and dedication and commend you, not just for receiving a world-class education here at American University, but also for making the choice to focus your studies on public service and American civic life.
I can tell you that there was not a single day, good or bad, when I was not grateful for the privilege to serve the people of Maryland as governor. Public service is and must continue to be a noble calling and I’m encouraged that some of you, the best and brightest, may be willing to serve. We’re all counting on you!
As each of you prepares to take this next important step in your lives, I want to share a few key life lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
I thought back to when I was graduating from college and what advice I would want to impart to my younger self if given the chance. Then I had to decide which of that advice would actually be appropriate to share.
My first piece of advice is don’t listen to the naysayers who tell you that you can’t achieve something. If I had listened to them, I would never have been elected governor as a republican in the bluest state in America.
If you are passionate and relentless and have a positive attitude, success is not guaranteed but it will exponentially increase your odds of success. And change is possible, even when the odds seem stacked against you.
As we gather here today America is at a critical turning point. Most Americans are thoroughly convinced that we are hopelessly divided, that Washington is completely dysfunctional and that our political system is fundamentally broken. The voices of the exhausted majority are often ignored in deference to the demands of the loudest and angriest few who seem hell-bent on tearing America apart.
In my first inaugural address, in 2015, I pledged that ‘the politics that have divided our nation need not divide our state.” I pledged to govern with civility and moderation to avoid attempts to drive us to the extremes of either political party. I promised to support the best ideas regardless of which side of the aisle they came from. We debated, discussed, and reasoned together, honestly and productively with integrity and sincere purpose. We argued without acrimony. Negotiated without hidden agendas. We didn’t demand Republican solutions or Democratic solutions. We sought out and achieved bipartisan commonsense solutions that worked for all the people of our state.
Most Americans today are totally fed up with the toxic divisive politics. But there truly is far more that unites us than divides us. Most Americans believe in common decency and common sense. They think straight talk is more valuable than empty rhetoric. All too often life tries to box us in and force labels on us.
But this future generation of public leaders here today can help ensure that we will be a nation that tolerates contrary views among a diverse citizenry without turning others into enemies or doubting their patriotism. Americans deserve a government that appreciates that no one of us has all the answers or all the power. So cast aside the labels. Treat people with respect. Think outside the box and there will be no limit to how much you can accomplish.
You know I learned a lot about integrity and public service from my dad who served on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. “No man,” he said “not even the President of the United States is above the law. For our system of justice and our system of government to survive we must pledge our highest allegiance to the strength of the law and not to the common frailties of man.” With those words he became the first Republican to come out for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. He put doing the right thing for his country ahead of the demands of his party. That decision cost him politically, but it earned him something more valuable a quiet conscience and an honored place in history.
Find good role models and remember that true leadership isn’t about titles or recognition. It’s about strength of character and doing the right thing for the right reasons.
Always be prepared for the unexpected. Don’t get thrown off course when obstacles appear from out of nowhere. Just 89 days after becoming Governor, the worst violence in 47 years broke out in our largest city of Baltimore. I declared a state of emergency and we worked around the clock to restore calm and peace in the community while protecting the right to peacefully protest. 60 days later, just five months after being sworn in, I was faced with a more personal challenge when I was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive cancer which had rapidly spread throughout my body. I governed the state from a hospital bed while enduring months of 24 hour a day chemotherapy.
Then in 2020, we were faced with the worst global pandemic in more than a century and we had to make hundreds of unthinkable decisions in order to protect lives and livelihoods.
None of these crises were a part of my plan. In life there are going to be the things that you plan for and work toward and there will be challenges that you may see coming. But there are also going to be things that will hit you from out of the blue that will test your strength, your will, and your character.
I can tell you that you will learn far more from those struggles and challenges. I learned that the truly important things in life were my family, my faith, and my friends. The support system that saw me through on good days and bad and I learned that life is much too short, and you never know how much time you have. So, trust me, you’ll want to make the most out of every single day.
Let me close with this advice, figure out what’s most important to you and hold onto it. Keep a healthy perspective on the truly important things in life keep people around you that make you a better person and keep you grounded. Stay true to who you are and what you believe. Embrace the things that make you unique and that you’re passionate about. Don’t be afraid to take bold risks or to challenge the status quo. And no matter the obstacles, don’t ever give up.
Looking out at all of you today gives me hope for the future. I’m excited about all that you will accomplish, and I have no doubt that I am standing among some great future leaders of America.
Once again, thank you for giving me this honor and congratulations to each and every one of you on your graduation.
Congratulations and soar like an eagle!