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Helms Tells Campbell Graduates To 'Aim For The Stars'

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BUIES CREEK, N.C. — Former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms struck a spiritual tone in his commencement speech to the class of 2003 at Campbell University on Monday.

Helms told the graduating class that he never prayed for political success or to win an election in his five terms in the U.S. Senate. He said he prayed for the Lord's guidance to do the right thing.

Helms, who has slowed down his activities since retiring, made his first public appearance since leaving Capitol Hill. He said he came to speak Monday because he couldn't pass up an opportunity to help shape the minds of young people.

He gave the 800 graduates a nine-minute message about saying what you mean and meaning what you say -- something he's well known for.

He said that's hard to do sometimes, and that is where prayer helps.

"Pray for guidance to do the right thing, the right way," he said. "Strive always to do the best you can."

Helms told the graduates they have the capability to do great things. He said that if they "aim for the stars," they might be surprised at what they could accomplish.

In an interview after the ceremony, Helms said those are qualities he has lived by, and that path will serve the graduates well.

"People who cut corners never get to their destination," he said. "You just have to play it like it is and do the best you can. You can't coast around in this economy we have, or the kind of country that we have."

The university took time during the ceremony to remember five alumns who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and they also took time to rememnber three students who died in a recent car crash.

A flag flew at half-staff in honor of the students who have died.


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