Lameck "Humble" Lukanga is a man who puts value in gratitude and humility. He brought both traits when he came to the University of New Mexico as a student who escaped unspeakable conditions in his native Uganda. He never forgot those values as he created and nurtured a successful business. And he brought those values as he stood at the podium to deliver the commencement address to the undergraduate students who comprised the UNM Class of 2014.
“A successful life is a happy life. Success is not a destination; it is a choice. Everything else is just marketing. The key to happiness is gratitude.”
“The impact you have in the world is not measured by power, prestige or money, but the number of lives that were better because you lived,” he said, adding that helping others provides individuals with success. “All that remains is the good we do and the difference we make. It is easier to make a dollar than a difference.”
Lukanga graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and also earned an MBA. He founded Life Line Financial Group, one of the top financial management firms in the country, based in Beverly Hills, Calif., that manages the wealth and business affairs for some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment.
“It feels good to be home,” he told the audience, who cheered as he acknowledged the successes of the students as well as the support and encouragement they received from family, friends and faculty.
Lukanga’s first home was not such a welcoming place, it was a place of “unspeakable poverty, genocide and civil war,” he said. He knew he had to maintain his goal to be free, to escape the bondage of his early life, which took the lives of his sisters. Through political asylum at the age of 11, he said, “I was able to breathe free, be alive, receive an education, start a successful business and manage professional athletes.”
It was Lukanga’s powerful personal story that prompted President Robert G. Frank to invite him to speak to the 2014 class of undergraduates. “I actually was introduced to Humble by my son, Daniel, right before I became President,” Frank said. “I remember the moment as if it were yesterday, when Daniel rushed into my room saying, “Dad, this guy epitomizes what it means to be a Lobo. You need to tell his story to inspire others at UNM.”
The seeds of what would quickly become a successful business were sown when Lukanga was still a student here. He became friends with then Lobo basketball player J.R. Giddens and used his business savvy to help the student-athlete manage the transition into professional sports. Now Lukanga represents other pro athletes such as Arian Foster of the Houston Texans.
As self-proclaimed “Ambassador of Hope,” Lukanga encouraged the graduates getting their bachelor’s degrees and entering the work world to define success on their own terms, otherwise they would be living someone else’s dream. He reminded them that they already have what it takes to be successful because failure doesn’t come “from a lack of resources, but from not being resourceful.”
He cautioned them not to be too cool to fail. “Go back to the warrior you were as a child when you didn’t care if you failed. Every time you fail, remember that.” And he urged them to take advantage of fear. “Everything I treasured in life scared me. If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. Cowards set goals they know they can achieve.” He added, “Let fear refine you. Don’t let fear define you.”
Lukanga encouraged the grads to pursue lives of purpose, telling them to go home and write it down that very day. “You have an education and you are empowered. You went to a university that afforded you that opportunity,” he said.
During his years at UNM, Lukanga was designated by New Mexico Business Weekly as one of the publication’s “Top 40 under Forty” business leaders and also one of the "Top 10 People To Watch" by Albuquerque The Magazine. He has not disappointed, becoming one of the nation’s young leaders in finance, social entrepreneurship and philanthropy.
Lukanga told the 2014 graduates that their journey to the mountaintop should make it easier for those who come behind them. “Leave your fingerprint on the heart of the world,” he said, “Go make history.”