Words of wisdom: What speakers are saying at HBCU graduations in North Carolina

At N.C. Central University, the Rev. William R. Barber II encouraged graduates to use their education to help reduce poverty, racism and other injustices in America and around the world.

Editor’s note: We will update this article as graduation ceremonies are held. Information and photos provided by the respective schools.


NCCU, Undergraduate Commencement, May 11, 2019

The Rev. William R. Barber II delivers a commencement address to graduating seniors on the campus on North Carolina Central University, May 11, 2019.

“Get up, get together and get involved,” the Rev. William R. Barber II told more than 680 students receiving undergraduate degrees at North Carolina Central University’s (NCCU) Commencement Ceremony on Saturday.

The degrees conferred included 339 Bachelor of Science, 193 Bachelor of Arts, 71 Bachelor of Business Administration, 24 Bachelor of Social Work, 50 Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and seven Bachelor of Music degrees.

Barber, a NCCU alumnus, encouraged the graduates to use their education to help reduce poverty, racism and other injustices in America and around the world.

“You cannot merely get a job and a car and quarantine your life,” Barber said. “Your graduation is more than just getting another slice of materialism. You must stand against injustice and be part of reviving the heart of this nation.”

He also asked them to recall how much their predecessors accomplished without great means.

“When they beat slavery, Harriet Tubman didn’t have Facebook and Twitter, but she had a made-up mind,” he said.


NCCU, Graduate & Professional Degrees, May 10, 2019

N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley delivers a commencement speech to students receiving graduate and professional degrees at North Carolina Central University, May 10, 2019. (Photo: NCCU)

The key to moving forward in any profession is being “proactive” in seeking opportunities as they arise, N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley told students receiving graduate and professional degrees from NCCU.

The school awarded 294 master’s degrees,117 law degrees and one doctoral degree.

Beasley said she left law school more than 20 years ago with no blueprint for becoming a judge, especially a chief justice.

“Muster the courage to seize the moment,” she said. “Be careful about perceiving those opportunities as meant for somebody else.”

She also urged them to maintain confidence in the face of obstacles.

“You’ll make the best-laid plans, and there will be times when your plans will be upset,” Beasley said. “Your dream job may slip through your fingers, but your fall back plan may be just the thing that leads you to discover your passion.”

Beasley is the first African American woman to serve as chief justice of the state’s highest court, appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper in March.


Bennett College, May 4, 2019

Photo: www.HardyEventPhoto.com

Kwanza Jones told Bennett College graduates to continue uplifting and supporting each other and to always recognize their greatness – even when others don’t.

“I just want you to know that just because they may not see you or acknowledge your greatness, does not mean you stop being great,” she said. “And just because the expectations that some may have of you are low; that does not mean that your expectations of yourself should not be exceedingly great. You hold yourselves to a higher standard.”

Jones, a graduate of Princeton University, Pepperdine University School of Law and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and former entertainer. Her mother and aunt both graduated from Bennett.

When Jones’ mother asked her to donate $1,926 to Bennett’s recent StandWithBennett fundraising campaign, Jones and her husband, José E. Feliciano, managing partner and co-founder of Clearlake Capital Group, donated $1 million instead.

Before taking her seat, Jones announced that she would give each graduate a custom-made “Queen Moves Only” purse and a $500 gift card.

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