Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told Bentley University graduates Saturday to search for "purpose, not prestige."
The state's first and only black chief executive spoke to students, faculty and parents in Waltham, encouraging students to not rest on their laurels in life.
He said, "sitting back and doing no harm is not enough even in normal times. These are not normal times.''
Patrick, a Democrat, talked about his journey from being an underprivileged child growing up on the south side of Chicago, to becoming a first-generation college student at Harvard University. He received an honorary doctor of commercial science degree at the ceremony.
The former public official has kept a low profile since leaving office in 2015. He accepted a post at Boston-based Bain Capital, the firm founded by former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.
"All I'm trying to say to you is this: Do some good with the leadership you achieve,'' Patrick said.
In recent months, Patrick has been stepping back into the political landscape. In February, Patrick said a 2020 run for the White House was on his "radar screen.''
That was the firmest indication yet that the political confidant of former Democratic President Barack Obama and nation's second elected black governor is seriously weighing a presidential bid.
Patrick, elected governor in 2006, served two terms, overseeing the expansion of health care to more than 98 percent of state residents, and launching clean energy initiatives.
The university's curriculum focuses primarily on business and management. Bentley awarded undergraduate degrees to more than 1,000 students.