"Don't be afraid to fail and if you do fail, try again, but do it strategically," North Carolina Governor Patrick L. McCrory '78 told an audience of graduates and their families and friends at Catawba College's 10 a.m. Commencement Exercise on May 11.
Showing off a pair of red boxing gloves given to him by his friend George Foreman, the former Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, McCrory relayed a story about his own failure to win the North Carolina gubernatorial election in 2008.
"In 2008, I took a big personal and professional risk in my life," he said, recalling his decision to run for the governor's seat against the Democratic candidate, Beverly Perdue. "I knew this was an opportunity that would never come again. I lost."
McCrory not only lost that election, but he lost the majority of the vote for that election in Charlotte. He said that that loss bruised his ego and tore at his heart.
"After losing in 2008, I still had one year of service as mayor. It was tough serving in a city that wanted me as mayor for seven terms, but not as governor. I became a little bitter. Apparently that bitterness showed to some friends and even to some outsiders."
George Foreman was one of those friends who saw McCrory's disappointment. He sent McCrory the pair of boxing gloves with a message that read: "I had to reach out and forgive Africa. They pulled against me in 1974."
McCrory said Foreman was sharing his own disappointment and bitterness as a 24-year-old when he had lost his Heavyweight Champion on the World title in Africa to Mohammed Ali before a crowd that "loved Ali more." Foreman got bitter, depressed, and quit boxing after his defeat. He lost all of his money as well. Twenty years passed and Foreman, as a 45-year-old, came back as an unranked contender in 1994, wearing the same boxing trunks he had worn when he lost to Mohammed Ali in Africa.
"He threw one punch and he was again Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World," McCrory remembered about Foreman's bout against the then 26-year-old Michael Moorer. He added, for the benefit of the graduates, most of whom did not know or remember Foreman as the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, "then he sold grills."
The right boxing glove in the set that Foreman sent had this message written on it for McCrory: "With this hand, I missed a lot, but I kept swinging."
In 2011, McCrory decided to run for the governorship again, but he said, "I decided I was going to be much more strategic with my swings. Thankfully, and what an incredible honor, the people said ‘yes.' "
As governor, McCrory said he is focused on "education, energy, efficiency and our economy." He encouraged the graduates not to "swing wildly, but to swing strategically" and to "develop a nimble mind and harness it with great communication skills."
"Now as you leave here today," McCrory concluded, "stay focused on what you want to accomplish. Be strategic. Be hard-working. Be ethical. That what makes our country great. That's what makes our state great. That's what makes Catawba great, and you will be great in your future."
Catawba awarded 283 degrees in two different ceremonies on May 11. Although McCrory's schedule only permitted him to speak at the 10 a.m. exercise, he sent a congratulatory message that Catawba President Brien Lewis shared with the graduates from the School of Evening and Graduate Studies at the 2 p.m. ceremony. It read:
Greetings to each of you, my soon to be fellow Catawba College alumni,
North Carolina citizens, friends and neighbors. Congratulations on your
graduation day. When you walk across this stage today to receive your
diploma, you will be sending a powerful message of achievement to your
children, grandchildren and others in your circle.
The majority of you worked to earn your degree while you juggled a fulltime
job and responsibilities of home and family. Count your efforts as a testament
of success, of perseverance, and to plain hard work.
My wish for each of you is that your degree translates for you into increased
competency and promotability in the workplace and to increased self-esteem
in your personal life. Through your efforts, you have in some way leveled the
employment playing field, stretched your mind and acquired new knowledge
and concepts. You will leave here today changed in one way, but still the same.
Our state needs graduates like you – those who stay the course and take on
the difficult tasks in challenging times. I toast each of you today with an excerpt
from North Carolina's longtime and well-loved state toast, adopted in 1957 by our general assembly:
Here's to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here's to down home the Old North State.
And here's to you, members of Catawba College's Class of 2013! Congratulations!
PHOTOS: Graduation 2013
VIDEO: Commencement Address by Governor Pat McCrory '78
VIDEO: "I Will Always Love You" Performed by Arsherres Jenkins '13
REMARKS: President Brien Lewis' Charge to Graduates
REMARKS: Jana Burkhardt's Greetings from the SGA
REMARKS: Lyn Boulter's Greetings from the Faculty Senate
College Presents Awards, Gives Special Recognition at Commencement Exercises
Homily to Seniors: How to Find "The Big H"
Three Retiring Faculty Members Recognized at Graduation
Alpha Chi Ceremony Sends Off Graduating Seniors