AVE MARIA — Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave Southwest Florida college graduates a top 10 countdown of advice on Saturday that the Naples Republican said took a lifetime to collect.
The list included what Scott would tell himself if he could go back in time to when he was graduating from the University of Missouri, or even later at Southern Methodist University. “Forgive,” was at the top of Scott’s list.
“Forgiveness is a complicated word. It’s not a natural response. It is supernatural. It requires grace and reflects God,” Scott said.
Scott’s list: 10) Family is sacred. 9) Your body is the only one you get. 8) Learn to manage money. 7) Be careful of your must-haves. 6) Enjoy the journey. 5) Build relationships. 4) Travel the world. 3) Trust. 2) Take risks. 1) Forgive.
“It’s wonderful to be back home,” Scott said while giving the graduation speech at Ave Maria University, in rural Collier County, east of his family’s home in Naples.
The governor addressed Ave Maria University’s 2013 graduating class of 159 undergraduates and 15 graduate students in the Golisano Fieldhouse.
Scott’s advice could be equally fitting for graduates everywhere, including those at Southwest Florida colleges and universities celebrating their graduations Friday night and throughout Saturday.
Florida Gulf Coast University held two ceremonies at Alico Arena on Saturday for its class of more than 1,300 graduates — one ceremony in the morning and another in the afternoon for the various colleges of FGCU.
Germain Arena was packed Friday night with family, friends and teachers of 1,228 students graduating from Edison State College.
Manny Ohonme, founder of Samaritan’s Feet International, served as commencement speaker at Edison State College’s graduation ceremony.
Ohonme’s life purpose and inspiration came as early as age 9 in Nigeria when a stranger gave him his first pair of shoes. He was inspired to compete in sports in Africa, earning a U.S. scholarship to play basketball at University of North Dakota.
Since then, his organization, Samaritan’s Feet International, has provided more than 2.5 million pairs of shoes to needy children throughout the world.
“Manny Ohonme’s story is proof that our beginnings do not determine our ends, and that wherever our starting point, there is the potential to achieve the highest levels of success,” Edison State College President Jeff Allbritten said.
Scott also came from humble beginnings before becoming a multimillionaire. His father was a bus driver and his mother a J.C. Penney clerk.
Scott lived in public housing for a stint and made it to college and law school on the GI Bill after serving in the U.S. Navy.
Ave Maria University President James Towey joked that Scott and the University’s founder, Tom Monaghan, had a few things in common. Scott started in business with owning a couple donut shops. Monahan started in pizza parlors as founder of Domino’s Pizza.
“Two health food nuts,” Towey said, drawing laughter.
Scott expounded a bit on each of his 10 pieces of advice, with graduates taking special note of several of his points.
“I thought it was extremely refreshing and practical advice for graduates this year. I really liked the part about taking risks — and him moderating that with advising us to stay close to family and save money,” said Paige Pilarski, 20, of Romeo, Mich., and president of the Student Government Association.
Many graduates already were taking Scott’s recommendation to “enjoy the journey,” including graduate Tim Dober, 23, of Dallas, Texas, who enjoyed each of Scott’s points but said he was enjoying the moment more than any particular words.
“I’m just really happy today. I’m on Cloud 9 right now,” Dober said.
Scott’s advice — to take risks, appreciate the failures as well as enjoy the successes — was appreciated by university officials as well.
“I’ve been in business 40 years and it’s very true,” said Ave Maria University Trustee Colleen Kvetko, president and CEO of Naples-based Shamrock Bank of Florida.
“Hopefully, they (graduates) took it to heart. There are going to be a lot of successes with this group and there will be a lot of disappointments along the way. These are the kids behind us that are going to change the world. I truly believe that,” she said.
SPECIAL PAGE: Find photos and stories about area high school and college commencement ceremonies in our 2013 Graduation page at naplesnews.com/graduation.