Serving as the keynote speaker at The Catholic University of America’s 2023 Commencement ceremony May 13, Arthur C. Brooks looked out over the gathered graduates and could sense some anxiety.
While the day was the culmination of years of hard work for the students receiving their degrees, The New York Times bestselling author, social scientist, and "happiness expert," suspected many of the newest alumni were worried about what was on the horizon.
Many, he said, could be seeking a job or have ambitions to save the world. The pressure they felt had a remedy, Brooks offered. Citing the work of philosophers and saints, Brooks said the answer to all their questions started at their origins.
“We’re beings made in God’s image to love others,” Brooks said. “That’s your vocation. Just love.”
Brooks intoned the word “love” many times during his address, saying that its potency is intensified through excellence.
“To love others through your work means bringing your very best effort every single day,” Brooks said. “It means being completely, uncompromisingly dedicated to excellence in everything you do.”
The crowd of thousands gathered on the East Portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception applauded several times throughout the address.
The speaker said although the graduates have completed their coursework, life can present new and unexpected challenges and opportunities.
He encouraged them to “take what God puts in your path and do it simply with love and excellence.”
Brooks said that he has found in his work there are, what he called “four happiness habits”: faith, family, friendship, and work. Joy in life and work can be a form of evangelizing, Brooks advised.
“You don’t cut corners when it comes to working in God’s image,” Brooks said. “This is also the best way to share our faith. The best way to bring people to the love of Christ is to be great at what you do. The reason for that is that excellence draws people like moths to a flame. Your excellence, fellow Catholics, is your missionary work. Take it seriously.”
Brooks said that a vocation, religious or not, can lead to everyday happiness for the graduates and the people they encounter along the way.“Use your ordinary work, no matter what it is, as a way to love others,” Brooks said. “Understand this well, there’s something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations and it’s up to each one of you to discover it. Dedicate anything you do, big or small, significant or insignificant, to the good of others.”