“Be a Student of Life” Mr. Louis J. Celli’s FNU Keynote Speech

Photo of Mr. Louis J. Celli During his Keynote FNU Speech

Graduation like many other achievements in one’s life is a benchmark that graduates and family members alike keep and reflect on as they progress onwards in life. Those sentiments are never more apparent than in the words spoken by keynote speaker Mr. Louis J. Celli. We at Florida National University had the great pleasure of having Mr. Celli say a few words to our graduates last November. Below is his remarkable speech. Enjoy!

Dr. Alfonzo… Thank you for that really great introduction – and thank you for a wonderful time last night Madam President Regueiro, thank you for inviting me into your family. Thank you Dr. Sanchez, John Ferrari and his fantastic staff, and the FNU family, faculty, staff and administration, students. Congratulations Lizandra and Mileidy, and you – the 2018 Florida National University graduating class – let’s hear it for you

Miami is definitely different that Washington D.C. So, people will tell you can be whatever you want in life – that’s not true. I wanted to be a singer and a cowboy, I’m allergic to horses and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

But I’ll tell you what you can be, no matter what anyone tells you, and that’s successful – and each and every one of you here today, are just that – congratulations on your success. Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher in the second century AD and he said “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one”. Now Marcus Aurelius was Emperor 161 to 180 AD and he’s revered as one of the greatest leaders in history, and the funny thing is, when he said “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one” he was talking to himself, one of the greatest leaders of all time needed a pep talk.

Some of you weren’t sure if you were going to make it – weren’t sure if you were going to have enough money to pay your rent while you studied, Wouldn’t have been able to come if there wasn’t daycare here, Many of you argued with your families trying to explain why you had to keep going, or wouldn’t have been able to finish if it weren’t for the fact that John was able to get reduced fare bus passes – Truth is, you were uncomfortable.

That’s okay.

Discomfort is a tool – don’t ever wish for too much comfort – cherish your discomfort, it will keep you sharp, make you stronger, keep you learning. Don’t ever stop learning. Most of you here are what they call untraditional learners. That’s just a fancy way of saying, life tried to whoop your ass but you fought back. I know, I dropped out of high school, joined the Army and didn’t graduate college until I was 50 years old. It was uncomfortable – A LOT – but I did it, and so did you.

Many of you here today are graduating with degrees in the medical field, Accounting, Business Management, Criminal Justice, and some of you are graduating as the very first class to graduate from Florida National University with a certified Master’s Degree in Nursing.

Here’s the question:

What are you going to do when you leave here? What are you going to do to honor the commitment you made to graduate? Is it only about getting a job? Paying back student loans? What does today represent for you?

Now is not the time to seek comfort – stay just a little uncomfortable. Never, Never, Never take a break from learning. Be a lifelong student – be a student of life – be a student for life.

Formal learning is just a type of discipline, you studied here because you knew you had to, to graduate. Build on that discipline, don’t rest for too long, don’t let that work ethic and discipline slip away, because discipline is the foundation of leadership.

When you leave here today your lives will forever be different, you are a new person. Do something for yourself – buy yourself a nice pen. There’s something about a nice writing instrument that screams professionalism. You should never be without a pen, and make sure you get one that has a cap. People notice little things, a nice pen tells people that you’re serious about your craft, and professional enough to invest in a quality writing instrument. Smooth, well balanced, weighty, glides across the paper, people notice nice pens.

If you remember nothing else about what I tell you today, remember this. The letter C.

C is one of the most important letters in the alphabet. The letter C is the third letter in the alphabet and 3 is a prime number. For those of you follow Christianity the number 3 represents the trinity, for you mathematicians, three is the first number that forms a geometrical figure – the triangle. Three is considered the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding. Three is the number of time:

Past, Present, Future.

Birth, Life, Death.

Beginning, Middle, End.

The third letter in the alphabet – C – is the power letter of the alphabet; But before I talk about the leadership aspect of of C, I want to take a moment to talk about another power of C, and that’s change. So the next time you hear about Sea change, think about this:

The only person you can ever change is YOU, no one else. You can’t change anyone, and If someone is trying to change or “C” control you – “C” carry their, or your stuff to the door. Anyone who feels that they need to control you – is another “C” word – a coward, who lacks “C” character.

So, let’s start there;

C is for Character – Your character is your collection of “C”s, it’s who you are and what your made of. In 1963 Martin Luther King had a dream that one day people would be judged by the “Content of their Character”. If you were to be judged by your character – what would people say about you?

C is for Courage – Courage is what heroes are made of. Courage means doing the right thing, even when no one’s looking. You know, courage really should be first in the list, because if you have courage, all of the other C’s will be that much easier.

C is for Competence – Always strive to learn everything you can about your field. Competence is one of the most important traits for an employee and a leader – in order to be a professional, you have to be competent.

C is for Commitment – If you don’t have commitment, you are just passing through, and no one will ever take you serious. Commitment lets people know you care, and caring is what people value most in any relationship.

C is for Candor – without candor you are a liar. By act or omission, if you are not honest and present yourself with candor, you have not been honest in your relationships. Having candor is hard, and requires guts, it means telling people the truth, not in a callous or uncaring way, but with tact and compassion. Candor reminds me of something George Carlin said – Everybody appreciates your honesty, until your honest with them, then you’re an AAAA….. Ahem…

C is for Community – This is where you start thinking about, and start taking other into consideration. Community is a representation of the essence of who you are. The Rugero’s have built a community, out of a community, that transcends the community. Because Florida National University “Opens doors to the future” Madam President – That’s what legacies are made of.

C is for Compassion – A leader without compassion is a bully and a tyrant. Compassion doesn’t mean being a sucker, it means having values and sticking to those values while caring and having empathy. If you ever feel yourself losing your compassion, step back and take a break, reevaluate, get it back or leave. Losing your compassion begins the downward spiral that will make all of your other C’s tumble.

C is for Culture – Yes, you all have culture, it was imparted to you by your parents, and their parents, and their parents before them, but that’s not the culture I’m talking about. When you interview for a job, or when your interviewing someone for a position with your organization, hire for culture. I can teach tasks, but I can’t teach culture. You’re either going to fit in with the culture, or you aren’t. So, make it your business to build a positive and cohesive culture, and run like hell form a corrosive culture. All a corrosive culture will do is damage you. In your personal relationships, as well as your professional relationships, do not tolerate a corrosive culture.

C is for Communication – Communication is the responsibility of the communicator. I’ll say that again – Communication is the responsibility of the communicator. One more time, Communication is the responsibility of… Who? Exactly. You are responsible for making sure you have been heard and understood. Communicate clearly and get feedback to ensure you are being understood. The life you safe could be your patient.

C is for Cohesiveness – Build cohesive relationships. Relationships that give as much as they receive. Concentrate on building cohesive teams and foster cohesiveness on the team you’re on. Work together, enjoy activities together, take lunch together, learn about each other. Be, and build a team. If you do, I promise, life will be easier, work will be easier, love will be easier. Nothing is worse than when a relationship is divided, or a team is divided. Cohesiveness is the foundation for one of the oldest mottos in American history – United we stand, divided we fall – I’ve got your back.

And finally – be “C” Consistent. An inconsistent leader or employee is a hazard. In order to be a good leader, you must be a good follower. Lead with humility and follow the same way – but most importantly, be consistent.

The last C in the list – is for Cap. I bet you’re thinking – how can a pen cap be so important?

On your way home today, or first thing tomorrow go ahead and treat yourself to a new pen. You don’t have to spend a lot to get something presentable. Then take out your shiny new pen, write down these words we just talked about, think about each one, and live them, each and every one, live them. And when you’re done, you’ll have the one thing that no person can ever, ever take away from you, and that’s integrity.

Integrity is the one thing, the only thing that you have complete control over. No one can ever take it from you. If you lose your integrity it’s because you either gave it away or sold it. If you’re going to sell your integrity, you make damned sure it’s worth it, because you will never be able to buy it back for what you sold it for.

Remember I told you to get a pen with a cap? Leaders always have a pen at the ready, and will always be ready with a pen when someone needs one. But when you extend your pen as an offer of leadership and good will to someone who doesn’t have one, remember that last C, and keep the cap. No one walks away and forgets to return a pen that’s missing a cap, and you’ll look down at your hand and remember that you handed someone your pen.

So – keep the cap. Now, for your last C before you walk across this stage and graduate from Florida National University, get ready, and get your last C – go conquer.