This spring, historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions are hosting a number of influential minority leaders, who are offering pearls of wisdom to the Class of 2011.
President Barack Obama spoke at Miami Dade College on April 29, offering inspirational words for the graduates:
“Class of 2011, you and your generation are now responsible for our future … you are going to be leaders for many years to come.” Obama said. Sharing anecdotes and childhood stories, Obama was able to connect with the students, allowing his own journey to be inspiring stepping-stones for the road that awaits them. “Pursue success,” he said. “Do not falter. When you make it, pull somebody else up. Remember, your life is richer when people around you have a shot at opportunity as well.”
Obama’s appearance at MDC, with its largely Hispanic student body, has been seen as an attempt to strengthen his support among Hispanic voters prior to the 2012 presidential campaign.
Obama also is scheduled to provide commencement addresses at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Booker T. Washington High School, which won the White House Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.
First lady Michelle Obama spoke at the commencement of Spelman College, the Atlanta, all-women’s HBCU.
Recalling the history of the university, from its start in 1881 with only 11 students to its current graduating class of 550 students, Michelle Obama compared their growth in size to a growth in leadership for the future.
“No matter what obstacles you encounter, no matter what hardships you endure … you have a diploma that will take you places you’ve never even dreamed of,” she said.
Quoting novelist and Spelman alum Tina McElroy Ansa, the first lady said, “Claim what is yours … you belong anywhere on this earth you want to.”
While commending the graduate’s hard work, she also offered some words of advice and encouragement. “If you go out there and make that claim, if you reach back to help others do the same, then I am confident that you will lead lives worthy of your dreams, and you will fulfill that precious Spelman legacy that is now yours.”
Michelle Obama also is scheduled to speak at the University of Northern Iowa and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as well as Quantico Middle High School.
Other members of the Obama administration are participating in commencement festivities, offering their own words to the class of 2011. Valerie Jarrett and Eric Holder are among the Cabinet members to speak at various colleges and universities.
Selected University and College Commencement Schedule
April 29, 2011
President Barack Obama – Miami Dade College
April 30, 2011
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed – Florida A&M University
May 1, 2011
Bill Cosby, Actor – Lincoln University
May 3, 2011
New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker – Fisk University
Rev. Al Sharpton, Civil Rights Activist – Bethune-Cookman University
May 6, 2011
Danny Glover, Actor – Texas College
Ret. Gen. Colin Powell – South Carolina State University
May 7, 2011
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan – Fayetteville State University
Ed Gordon, Host of BET’s “Weekly with Ed Gordon” – Jackson State University
Dr. John Maupin, President of Morehouse College School of Medicine – Claflin University
Anton Vincent, President of Baked Products Division, General Mills – Norfolk State University
Soledad O’Brien, Journalist – Dillard University
May 8, 2011
Tom Joyner, Radio Host – Tuskegee University
Winnie Mandela, former wife of South African President Nelson Mandela – Johnson C. Smith
Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron – Rollins College
May 13, 2011
Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement – UCLA School of Law
Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions – Waycross College
May 14, 2011
Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, Director of the National Museum of African Art at Smithsonian – University of the Virgin Islands
Fred M. Diaz, President and Chief Executive Officer Ram Truck Brand and Head of National Sales – Texas Lutheran University
Freeman Hrabowski III, President of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County – University of Mississippi
Roland Martin, CNN analyst – Le Moyne-Owen College
Marc H. Morial, CEO of National Urban League – Howard University
May 15, 2011
Donna Brazile, Journalist – Benedictine College
Toni Morrison, Author – Rutgers University
First Lady Michelle Obama – Spelman College
Denzel Washington, Actor – University of Pennsylvania
May 16, 2011
Susan Taylor, Editor-in-Chief emeritus of Essence magazine – Clark Atlanta University
May 18, 2011
U.S. President Barack Obama – U.S. Coast Guard Academy
May 19, 2011
DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association – University of Maryland
May 21, 2011
Gwen Ifill, Anchor of PBS “Newshour” – Lafayette College
Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University – Morgan State University
May 22, 2011
Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General – University of Virginia School of Law
May 23, 2011
Dominique Dawes, Olympic gymnast, co-host of NPR “On the Radio” – West Virginia University
May 25, 2011
Jimmy Santiago Baca, Award-winning novelist, playwright and poet – Santa Fe Community College
May 26, 2011
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Harvard University
May 28, 2011
Regina M. Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General and Vice Admiral – Renssaeler Polytechnic Institute
June 12, 2011
Mexican President Felipe Calderon – Stanford University
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