Thank you and good morning. I have been away for awhile and it feels good to be back in my hometown with my fellow Texans.
Graduates, I am grateful to share with you and your families the satisfaction of your achievement on this special day.
My speechwriters prepared several drafts of this morning’s remarks, but none seemed quite right for this occasion. A version even focused on the lessons one might learn from the professional and personal success of Houston Astros pitcher Roger Clemens.
I was uncomfortable relying on sports metaphors and rejected the idea, in part, because I have no personal connection with Mr. Clemens. My staff had the last word, when the United States Attorney from Houston coincidentally presented me yesterday with a baseball autographed by the future Hall of Famer.
In spite of this obvious sign from above, I tried my own hand at putting pen to paper, and quickly realized I probably have little new to add to your own experiences.
Commencement addresses are usually intended to inspire, to teach . . . but many of you graduates are a little older, hopefully wiser . . . you are already juggling career and family with school, so you know too well about balancing paychecks and responsibilities.
Because you are just minutes away from graduation, there is little left to prove – at least to me – we know you are motivated, hard working, and determined. So let me just send you out into the world with a bit of advice. My career may not be as legendary as a Roger Clemens fastball, but I have learned some things that may help you.
First , do what you love. When you enjoy what you do, when you pursue your passion, neither fatigue nor failure ever seem possible; though your spirit may be weakened, it cannot be broken.
I have been Attorney General for only a few months. For four years, however, I met with the President almost daily as his lawyer. Every time I enter the White House and walk into the Oval Office, I am reminded of the awesome responsibility that the President shoulders, and the corresponding duty that falls upon all of us who serve the American people.
President Bush is disciplined, focused, and serious about his duties. I believe it is his passion for America, for freedom, and for opportunity for all that drives him. He loves what he does: to fight for the American people. And I love what I do, working at his side to defend the Constitution and protect your rights under the law.
Government service is hard at times — just like managing an office, opening a business or raising a family. But it is always easier to stay motivated and drive yourself harder when you love what you do.
Second, in all that you do, do your best. This will be the characteristic that will define you to others and will set the course for your accomplishments in life and your profession.
Both excellence and success are attainable through your day-to-day dedication.
Following the attacks of September 11 th, those of us in the White House and in various agencies like the Department of Justice worked sixteen hours, seven days a week anticipating another attack and preparing the strategy for the appropriate response.
People were exhausted, nerves were frayed, but we focused the collective wisdom and courage of America’s best to defend America.
We did our best yesterday . . . and the day before that. But next week has new challenges and we have to continue to do our very best.
Third , love your family.
Nothing will give you greater joy.
One of my proudest moments came when I escorted my seventy two year old mother into the Oval Office for the first time to see the President.
It was important for me to be able to do that for her—this little woman with almost no formal education who, along with my father, sacrificed all of her life to provide for her children—I took her to the White House to thank her and to show her what I had accomplished because of her and Dad.
There were no struggles that day, no heartaches. There were just wide smiles and uncontrollable giggling from my shy, reserved mother. I wish that I could bring her that kind of happiness every day.
When I speak as Attorney General to the men and women of law enforcement, I always try to make a point of thanking their families—husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who also serve America with their support of those in uniform.
I like to tell them that as members of law enforcement we can become consumed with arrests, cases, and prosecutions. And these are important. But we must never forget our families. There is no investigation, no assignment, no conviction that is as satisfying as the hug of an adoring child or as comforting as the loving embrace of a loyal spouse.
To achieve success in life, remember that your families and your relationships are the most important measure of your success and the most precious support for continued achievement.
Fourth, You are never too old to stop learning.
Today, for some of you your formal education ends and your learning begins. Learning is a lifelong and essential pursuit. It does not end when the doors of the school close behind us or the ink on a diploma dries.
We cannot afford to think that we ever have all the answers or that we do not need to practice or study more. Every great opportunity and achievement begins with a desire to learn new things and take on new risks.
Every moment is a learning- moment if we keep our minds open, alert, and ready.
I see this every day in this job. From briefing the President to meeting our nation’s top law enforcement leaders, from tracking the latest developments in foreign intelligence to following terrorist prosecutions, from speaking to civic groups and listening to private citizens, every day is an opportunity to serve the American people—and for this Attorney General to keep learning.
Fifth, remember where you come from and don’t lose sight of your roots.
Earlier this week I attended a Cinco de Mayo celebration dinner hosted by the President and First Lady in the Rose Garden. From my vantage point at the dinner table, I could see clearly into the Oval Office and the American flag waving proudly atop the adjacent Old Executive Office Building. Listening to the various musicians that evening, I thought a lot about my heritage, my beautiful culture, and about the wonderful opportunities that I have enjoyed in our beloved America.
My grandparents were Mexican immigrants. I remember visiting them as a very young boy – there was no telephone, no television, no running hot water, no porcelain toilet, we went the outhouse by the railroad tracks that ran along the back of their property. My parents had very little formal education as well, and in my own home we had no hot running water or telephone.
We all know that your environment and relationships affect your outlook on life.
When you grow up with little, you learn to be grateful for the smallest comforts. I think you also appreciate more the kindness of others, you remember those who help you and you have greater pride in your own accomplishments.
Graduates, you have been given a great deal to reach this point. Your teachers, counselors, parents, and families have sacrificed and encouraged you. Do not forget that. You have a degree now, but that doesn’t make you a better person, it simply means you are more educated.
I have lived the American dream. During my travels around the country I have met many people who have also shared in America’s promise . . . people like you. And we have an obligation to join together in a noble cause that guarantees the American dream to our children and to future generations of young Americans.
Finally, and most importantly, you should take the life that God has given you and, make a difference.
A few months ago, the world mourned the announcement of the death of Pope John Paul the second. As the days passed and we were all reminded of the accomplishments of this remarkable man, much of the sadness was soon replaced by gratitude, joy, and admiration
Pope John Paul’s life was one of service and one to celebrate. It was a life worth living. Think of the alternative . . . how sad it is to have any life end unnoticed, without making a difference, without leaving a mark to show that you were even here.
It may seem egotistical or self centered to want to be remembered, but I truly believe that we are each given life to make a difference- to leave a set of footprints for others to follow. Our lives and the world we inhabit will only be improved by our own accomplishments and those of others.
So go for it. The President told the members of his Cabinet that while we may be in a second term we are not here to play little ball, we are here to play big ball, to go for the big inning. That is the mentality that should motivate every aspect of our lives.
Go for it!
Graduates, thank you again for letting me share this special day with you. My children will grow up in the world that you shape and lead in the years to come. So I hope you learn well these and other life lessons.
I pray that God continues to watch over you and your families, may He continue to guide your decisions and may He continue to bless the United States of America.
Congratulations and good luck!