Leavitt Receives Honorary Degree at SUU Graduation

Leavitt Receives Honorary Degree at SUU Graduation

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CEDAR CITY, Utah (AP) -- Amid some lofty talk about change and its benefits, former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt also had some bum advice for Southern Utah University graduates.

"The higher an ape climbs in a tree, the more of his rump shows," the Environmental Protection Agency chief said. "So treat people well along the way and they'll cover your backside later on."

Leavitt offered that insight to the 1,064 grads that focused on the importance of resilience through planned and unplanned changes that come to all lives.

"Through transition we learn to become better," said Leavitt, a Cedar City native and graduate of the former Southern Utah State College.

Transition means being able to move forward and not stopping and reflecting on mistakes or failures, he said. As an example, he referred to former Utah Jazz great John Stockton, and how coach Jerry Sloan praised the player's ability to adjust rapidly to the next situation.

Leavitt used the example of another athlete, ice skater Sarah Hughes, who impressed the world with a performance during the 2002 Winter Olympics that demonstrated a unity of passion, talent and desire.

"When the music stopped, she had done precisely what she had wanted to do," said Leavitt. "When change comes, don't be afraid to skate the performance of your life."

Before the address, SUU President Steven D. Bennion awarded Leavitt an honorary degree in business.

Bennion also announced the school's Center for Politics and Public Service would be named after Leavitt. Leavitt's official portrait as governor, on loan from the state Capitol, was also unveiled on the stage in the Centrum Arena where Saturday's commencement took place. It was announced the painting would hang in the newly named center.

Last August, President Bush picked Leavitt to succeed Christie Whitman as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Leavitt stepped down during his third term as Utah governor to take over the agency in November.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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