Don't worry yet about mapping out your perfect career path. Find a cause -- a calling -- something bigger than yourself that you are passionate about.
Then, take opportunities as they come.
Those words were among the advice given Friday to the largest class in history to graduate from the University of South Carolina Beaufort. They came from Karen Hughes, a public relations executive who was a close aide to former President George W. Bush, who delivered the commencement address in the Helen and Brantley Harvey Plaza on USCB's Hilton Head Gateway Campus.
"Follow your passions, in keeping with your priorities, expand your perspective and get out there and make us proud," she said.
Hughes told the graduates she began her career as a television reporter covering tornadoes and the Texas legislature. She gravitated toward politics and, after working several lower-level jobs, eventually got a position directing communications for Bush's successful 1994 and 1998 gubernatorial campaigns.
Hughes then followed Bush to the White House. In 2005, he nominated her to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. For two years, she led the U.S. State Department's effort to communicate U.S. values abroad.
"Standing at my own college graduation, I never could have predicted all of that," she said
Hughes reminded graduates to achieve balance in their lives: Prioritize true loves, like family. Stay grounded by calling home often. Serve your fellow citizens.
And choose your bosses carefully.
"I say that not only because mine went on to the become the president, but because I've learned the person who is your boss is really important to your life," Hughes said. "Seek bosses who share your core values and will reinforce, rather than undermine, your priorities."
Bush, she said, appreciated honest advice: He once thanked her for pointing out his mistake when he said "misunderestimate."
The 272 students who graduated Friday included the first class to earn four-year bachelor's degrees in nursing, as well as the first cohort of students from the Saturday Business Degree program and the first group of studio art students.
Sanders Black was among the first to receive a studio art degree.
"It's been cool to see the program develop and be a part of that," he said, adding he liked the small size of the program because it gave students a chance to get to know the professors.
The day was bittersweet for some.
"The university has been my life," said Jared Springle, a graduate who also won USCB's Student of the Year award. "I've worked at the university, my friends are at the university and all my extracurriculars are here. To be able to celebrate this today and have that all be in the past come tomorrow is a little bizarre."