PEMBROKE PINES, FL – Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis delivered a commencement address to the 2019, 2020, and 2021 graduating classes at Keiser University’s Pembroke Pines campus.
Greek-American Patronis is a statewide elected official and a member of Florida’s Cabinet who oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Patronis works each day to fight insurance fraud, support Florida’s firefighters, and ensure the state’s finances are stable to support economic growth in the state. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook: FLDFS and Twitter: @FLDFS.
Patronis’ remarks to the graduates follow:
It is an honor to be with the graduating classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021 for this big day.
Frankly, after last year – it’s nice to be anywhere!
I’m happy to see people in person again.
I’m glad we’re not doing this by Zoom, or Tick Tock, or something.
From the looks of it, everyone here has got a good head on their shoulders.
Trust me, you’re all going to look back at your decision of attending Keiser and really appreciate it.
Keiser University is a place for people who want to go into the world and do something.
There’s nothing wrong with other colleges or universities, but Keiser is going to get you into a career.
To walk into the world and begin a good job is empowering, and you’ll thrive from that feeling.
No one has ever accused me of being a book worm, and I’ve never set any records on the SAT, but when I think back to my time in college, it was the lessons that could be applied in my everyday life that meant the most to me.
That’s where Keiser succeeds the most. You’ll be better for it.
Before I get into the meat of some of things I wanted to talk about today, I know many of you have some questions.
One question is who is this guy? And the other question is how long do I have to sit here listening to him?
The good news is I’ve timed this speech, and you’ll know everything you need to know about me a little bit after the intermission, so sit back and get comfortable!
Don’t worry I’m joking!
I like speaking, I like talking to people.
I don’t like lecturing people with long speeches.
My name is Jimmy Patronis and I am your state’s Chief Financial Officer.
Just like the Governor, I am elected every four years and I manage the state’s finances.
If you’re registered to vote, you’ll see my name on the ballot.
If you’re not registered to vote, you should consider registering. Especially if you like what I have to say!
If you don’t like my views, however, that’s ok too! Voting isn’t for everyone.
Serving as your state’s CFO means that when the State of Florida pays for something, my name is on the check.
I am also the State Fire Marshal.
My office does a lot more, but lucky for everyone, I’m not here to give a lesson about Florida politics.
Today, is about you and your hard work, not me.
I’m not going to tell you how many years I’ve been around – but let’s just say I’ve lived more life, and I’ve made more mistakes, than a lot of you.
So, what I want to share with everyone is my top-ten list of things that I think are important to living a good life.
Like any list, this is not all encompassing – and it can change at a moment’s notice.
But, these are things have made things go a littler-easier for me.
#10 – Do Something with Your Life.
Here at Keiser there’s a room full of doers.
But we all know people who think a lot, but don’t do a lot.
We all know that person that has big hopes and aspirations, and they don’t do anything about it.
They won’t even take that first step, and that first step is hard for everyone...
It’s a fact that the path before you will never, ever, be clear. The future is not written.
You will doubt yourself; others will doubt you.
Somedays, you’ll want to go left, and the next day, you’ll want to go right.
I’m not into poetry, but we all know the poem about taking a road less traveled, and something about the woods being yellow.
My opinion: Don’t overthink it. Just make a decision. If it’s wrong, it’s ok. You can turnaround.
To contribute and feel fulfilled in this world, you have to sometimes take a leap into the unknown, but that’s better than doing nothing.
As long as what you’re doing is for the right reasons, and it’s consistent with your values, go for it and don’t look back!
So again, whatever you want – as long as it’s legal – you should do something with your life.
#9 – People and Opportunities Mean the Same Thing
I am a people person and I spent a good part of my life in the restaurant business.
Here’s a secret…
You love your local restaurant because of the “atmosphere.” That means the people!
There’s plenty of businesses with great food that fold. It just doesn’t have that magic. It doesn’t feel right.
More often than not, opportunities will arise from random conversations with someone you met at lunch, at a kid’s birthday party, or a random event.
Your ability to make money, and pursue opportunities, will come as a large result of how much you deal with people.
I don’t care if you’re running a lawn care business or have an IT firm, it’s people who will buy your goods, and it’s people you’ll have to do business with.
There’s no getting around it.
So, again, people and opportunities mean the same thing.
#8 – Get a Handle on Your Personal Finances!
Take time to think about how you use your cash.
Are you investing? How much cash is in the bank? What’s the return? How much debt do you have?
I know how quickly cash can turn into a boat, or a trip, or nice new car.
It could also turn into a bunch of Amazon boxes.
Trust me – I know!
Take the money you’ve worked hard to earn, invest it somewhere, and go on about your life.
At some point your little bit of cash will turn into tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And if by some miracle of God, that money turns into millions of dollars, please do not forget about your Uncle Jimmy in Bay County – I’ve got mouths to feed too!
My second piece of advice is to avoid debt.
Do not pay the minimum balance, and don’t go into a bunch of debt for stuff you don’t need.
Do not finance a television! If you need to finance a television, call my office – we’ll help you get a library card.
Those banks and credit card companies paid for their big fancy buildings with your cash.
Very smart people in the state of Florida are figuring out ways all the time on how to pay down debt.
That’s because the less debt we have, the more money we’ll have for things like health care and roads.
So please, avoid going to debt as much as possible.
And third and final, please review your insurance policies.
You are paying for a product and you don’t want to be in a position where you thought you were covered for something, when you weren’t.
Likewise, you don’t want to be digging around for papers after a storm has ripped up your roof.
Sometimes I think the banks and insurance companies purposely make this stuff boring.
In fact, right now - the more I talk about this the more I see some knuckleheads falling asleep!
Look, when your title is CFO it comes with the job description.
So again, please, get a handle on your finances.
#7 – (Speaking of Knuckleheads!) Please, Check on your Parents and Grand Parents
At some point everyone in this place was a knucklehead.
Hell, I know some of you are still knuckleheads, but lucky for you, there are people who love and care for you.
Your family put up with a lot, and you’ve made it this far.
Go ahead and check in on them.
They love you and they’re worried about you.
And trust me, one day you’ll be in their shoes.
Also, before I leave the topic of your parents – especially for the men in the audience – shave and get a haircut.
Don’t be passed over for that job because you look like you walked out of the woods.
Ok – I’m done with my rant.
So please again, don’t be a knucklehead, check in on your parents and grandparents from time to time.
#6 – Consider Public Service, Seriously!
When I was coming up in politics, public service was boring.
What you see on the television and social media isn’t wrong, but it’s not the full story.
Public service is fulfilling, and as of today, many of you have an education that is above and beyond what folks in your community have.
There’s nothing wrong with pursuing a great job that gets you a lot of money, but I’m telling you – it doesn’t compare to the feeling you get when you help someone.
The fact is I get a rush from fixing problems it’s hard to imagine ever doing something different.
From school boards, to mosquito control boards, to the White House, we need good people who care about their community to participate.
So please consider public service.
Trust me, you’ll love it.
#5 – If You Haven’t Already, Get Married and Have Kids
For those in the room that have kids, you know the saying – long days, short years.
Having kids is hard. It’s hard to balance work and family. Every month is more money out of your pocket. But I’m telling you it’s worth it.
In all my years I have done some cool stuff:
I have met Presidents and U.S. Senators; I have hung out with Elon Musk; I have been on national television; I have flown on Air Force One; and just a few months ago I had the head of the Olympics call me, asking me to pipe down about trying to move the games to Florida (Now - That was fun!)
But, I’ll tell you right now: none of it compares to being at my little boy’s baseball game.
Seeing the look on his face after a line-drive-up the middle is my everything.
I don’t know what all this life has in store, but I know that marrying my wife, Katie, and building a family was my greatest accomplishment.
Nothing comes close to it; and nothing will ever come close to it.
You may not get a lot of sleep, and sometimes you’ll wish you had more money, but family is so much more enriching to the soul that none of that will ultimately matter.
So get married and have a bunch of kids.
#4 – GET. OFF. YOUR. PHONE!
I want to warn everyone that when it comes my phone, and twitter, and my iPad, I am obsessed.
I have all the gadgets. All my gadgets talk to each other. I even have backup cell phone carriers on my phone.
Like all in this room, I get those Sunday reports that say I averaged anywhere from five to six hours a day, and it doesn’t make me feel very good.
Five hours a day for 365 days equals about 76 days on my Phone in a year.
That’s too many.
Some of those hours could have been spent getting more sleep or reading a book – and the same goes for all of you!
Sometimes I even hop on my boat to find a place where there’s no cell service!
Get off your phone and go do something in the real world.
#3 – Believe in the Power of Prayer.
Look, I am no religious scholar, but I have seen enough to know that this world is too complicated of a place to go at it alone.
Sometimes, the world will throw things at you that are so incomprehensible that you either have faith or you’ve got nothing.
I told y’all earlier that as the CFO, I’m also the State Fire Marshal.
When the South Champlain Tower collapsed, I was already in South Florida with a bunch of meetings.
I even had my son with me.
For many of the 98 souls that were in the tower the morning of June 24, their life came to an end at the blink of an eye.
You think about not just those that died, but their parents, and brothers, and sisters, and children that were left behind – and how they’re fighting to get back to some type of normal.
I saw the work of God when hundreds of Florida’s Urban Search & Rescue Team members fought, and kept fighting, for any hopes of life.
They worked 12 hours shifts in the Miami summer, cutting rebar, cutting concrete, filling 5-gallon buckets of debris, hand-by-hand.
They battled fire, they battled rain, they battled the heat. Their boots and gloves were destroyed.
They had to keep respirators on to avoid the cancer-causing substances that so many firefighters got after 9/11.
In fact, some of these men and women served at ground zero.
Then there were the priests and rabbis at Surfside, who in my opinion, were unsung heroes.
On that mound of rubble, I saw hell on Earth.
But I also saw God’s presence in the men and women that fought with every ounce of their being to save lives.
Surfside was a tragedy on a mass scale, and it’s going to stick with me forever.
From events like Surfside, I’ve improved my relationship with both God, and the Greek Orthodox Church.
So, don’t be afraid to pray and ask God for a little extra help. It matters.
#2 – (On a MUCH Lighter Note) When You Go Out To Eat, Just Order the Dessert!
I came from the restaurant business and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a family come in and eat bread, and a quarter-stick-of butter, and drink wine, and eat a bunch of fried food – then turn down a dessert because they don’t want the calories!
First, get a couple of spoons and just share a bite or two.
Second, you’ve already consumed enough calories to live in the woods for a week.
Look, this is a restaurant, we’re not running a CrossFit gym.
And third, that dessert is going to help keep the restaurant you love in business.
That extra seven dollars, or so, is how they’re going to keep the lights on.
So, please, just enjoy yourself and get the dessert!
FINALLY #1 – Do Not Under ANY Circumstances Listen to the Critics
Your parents fought and toiled to keep you safe and give you a good life.
Many of you worked jobs or took out loans for this degree you’re walking out with today.
So why would you give one-second of your time steaming over the opinion of someone that doesn’t have your best interest at heart!
If you’re passionate about something, and you work hard at it, I promise it will work out.
If you let the critics or trolls stop you from pursuing that career, or joining that club, or writing that book, or making that phone call – you’ll never forgive yourself.
So please – do not listen to the trolls!
And that concludes my top-ten list.
Today is a day of celebration.
Because of your education and your accomplishments, people are going to look to you for help and support, and it’ll be up to you to do the right thing!
So thank you,
Don’t be knuckleheads, don’t listen to the haters and more importantly order the dessert!