PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein recently delivered an electrifying keynote address to young, aspirational leaders during Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week at Lycoming College. This week-long event invites high school juniors and seniors from across the Commonwealth to participate in a competitive business simulation, where student teams are assigned companies to manage and tackle real-life business challenges.
Addressing the eager audience, Bernstein began by providing an overview of the PA Chamber’s mission, emphasizing its representation of nearly 10,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors throughout the state, with a history spanning more than a century.
Drawing from his personal journey, Bernstein shared the valuable lessons instilled by his parents during his upbringing in Hazleton. Lessons like “keep moving forward,” “hard work pays off,” and “always remember where you came from” formed the foundation for his successful career, taking him from Wall Street to serving in government and later leading the statewide business group.
Bernstein set the stage with a compelling thesis: “The formula for a successful business is the same formula for a successful life.” He emphasized that the principles of free enterprise that underpin our nation’s foundation are applicable not only in business but to personal growth and achievement, too.
The first lesson Bernstein offered students was to “dream big.” As he recalled taking over the PA Chamber, he shared his ambitious goal of making Pennsylvania the most economically competitive state in the country. Acknowledging the challenges in achieving such a lofty aim, Bernstein emphasized that when you dream big, enthusiasm becomes contagious, inspiring others to embrace new perspectives and possibilities.
Bernstein also encouraged the students to “embrace challenges as opportunities.” He candidly discussed Pennsylvania’s uncompetitive tax laws as a significant barrier to business growth and how, through coordination and advocacy, the PA Chamber successfully pushed for significant pro-business tax reforms last year. He urged the students not to shy away from obstacles but to view them as stepping stones to improvement, citing examples of businesses that turned challenges into groundbreaking innovations.
His third lesson focused on the importance of “investing in your network.” Bernstein highlighted the PA Chamber’s success in bringing diverse coalitions together to advocate for common goals. He stressed the significance of recognizing each team member’s strengths and using them effectively to achieve collective success. Encouraging kindness and respect, he emphasized that the most profound influences in life often come from unexpected sources.
The fourth and final lesson emphasized the value of “committing to something bigger than yourself.” Bernstein shared his personal motivation—his two sons—and how this drives him to work tirelessly to create a better future for them and the entire next generation of Pennsylvanians. He urged the students to find a purpose beyond individual success, whether through their business, family, or community, as this commitment will lead to meaningful and fulfilling achievements.
Luke’s address left a lasting impact on the young minds gathered at Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week. His insights into the connection between business success and personal growth were a powerful reminder that with determination, teamwork, and a commitment to something greater, anyone can achieve their dreams while making a positive difference in the world around them.