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PO - Gregory - PR

Posted on: May 7, 2019

Gregory Pens Open Letter to Graduates

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory speaks to graduates.

The following is an open letter to graduates from Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory.

From the Desk of Presiding Officer Gregory:

Congratulations, Graduates!



In thinking about the important milestones you will be celebrating these next few months, I considered what I would want to hear were I to be graduating – what words might inspire me to think about things in a different way, to try something new, to take a step in a direction that might not be the easiest option, to be the one to identify and then create a path that speaks to my interests and the needs of the world.

What came to me was a simple lesson that takes most of us years to fully understand: Be yourself, first and foremost. If you are true to yourself, the rest will follow.

I believe each one of us begins our journey with some pre-conceived ideas about what our lives should look like, undoubtedly the product of various influences in our lives. I think about my own journey through college to where I am today. It was one filled with twists and turns and not necessarily what I, at a young age, envisioned for myself. I was a scrawny kid from Central Islip growing up in a struggling middle-class family. At many times, it felt like we were poor. Going to college was certainly an aspiration for my parents, and although my mother became a registered nurse, my father became an auto mechanic through on-the-job training. He had no more than a high school education, but he knew he wanted me and my twin brother, Dwight, to obtain a college education. And so, to college I went.

After college, life took an unexpected turn, and I decided to enter the military. It was something I had thought about before, but because of the recession, it became a way for me to gain my independence and serve my country as had so many others in my family. I enlisted and then applied to become an officer through the officer candidate school program. It was great! I loved the sense of purpose that came with being an active member of the military. However, that soon came to an end when it became too much of a strain to be away from my wife and young children for up to six months a year. I left the military and returned to Suffolk County to start a new chapter in my life. I soon got involved in politics and ran for public office in 2008, which led me to where I am today, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature.

When we start out, free-thinking is a combination of the input and intake we have received and absorbed from outside sources – whether it be friends or family members, teachers, counselors, and even work experiences, as well as what we consume in terms of our reading, television watching, and social media interactions.

However, what is missing in the beginning as we craft our early plans for ourselves is the knowledge gained from actual time spent living in the lives you now own – no longer the student, but the graduate.


Give your best and care about what you do – always – but remember that perfection is the enemy of innovation. 

Maintain a balance so that you remain open to change.


And so, I offer you these words of advice:

You have crossed over the threshold and are ready to make your mark. Be brave, because you will never walk this path again. Your contributions to society from this day forward could define the rest of your lives, so dare to dream, and dream big.

Discover who you are. Be patient and kind with yourself, as you will make mistakes, but it will be how you rebound and how much you learn from those mistakes that will show you the stuff of which you are made.

Give your best and care about what you do – always – but remember that perfection is the enemy of innovation. Maintain a balance so that you remain open to change.

Be a creative thinker. Use your resourcefulness and your unique self to find ways to overcome challenges.

Be adaptable. Listen and be open to a variety of ideas and opinions, as they can be the lights that guide you to the places you have not been before and may not have found without them.

Most importantly, never stop learning.

As graduates, your responsibility is to alter the landscape, to find ways in which to shift the universe to make the world a better place. If we look around at our world today we see confirmation of the need for compassion, tolerance and acceptance. You will have an opportunity to rediscover the essence of our country; the spirit of goodness that is an innate part of helping others. The need is great.

You are the future; you are our future. As students who grew up on Long Island or who were educated on Long Island, I am hopeful that you have been drawn to the natural beauty that surrounds us on both shores and that you will consider making this your home. Our economy is dependent on a skilled workforce that can address the critical issues that impact the quality of life and the health and well-being of residents.

You have a blank slate. Write your story wisely, color it with human stories that portray the beauty that is life, and sprinkle in pictures that capture the most significant moments so you never lose sight of where you began and where you are headed.

Go bravely into the future. It is your time to shine. Congratulations!

DuWayne GregoryWelcome

Presiding Officer

Suffolk County Legislature

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