2016 is the year of big commencement speeches. Michelle Obama, Terrence J and many others have graced the stages of universities for their commencement addresses. Elizabeth city State University decided to follow trend, and have the Political analyst Bakari Sellers for their keynote speaker.
Sellers, a Morehouse graduate at the age at the age of 20, went on to law school where in his first year, he ran for the SC house of representatives and he won; making him the youngest member of the South Carolina General Assembly. Serving for 8 years in his position, in 2014 Sellers left his seat and decided to run for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. Bakari in the end lost to republican nominee Henry McMaster. Not letting that stop him, Sellers has gone on to become force to be reckoned with in politics. a Lawyer for Strom Law, an avid Clinton campaign supporter, and a political commentator for CNN, Sellers was the perfect person to speak at 162nd commencement for ECSU.
Before he went out to talk to the ECSU graduating class, Sellers talked briefly with us at HBCUs Buzz about, well what else? HBCUs.
No stranger to the HBCU community, Sellers’ entire family, has a strong background in the HBCU community. His father Cleveland Sellers, is currently the president of HBCU Voorhees College, while both of his siblings are also HBCU graduates. When asked why he chose Morehouse, Sellers states, “My parents gave me the choices there, they told me I could go to any school I wanted to in the entire country as long as it was an HBCU.”
“Morehouse was the best decision I’ve ever made, it taught me the principles of leadership, and I wouldn’t have any simulants of the success that I have now, without going to Morehouse first.”
Bakari Sellers believes that HBCUs will be around for a long time as long as they continue to produce great graduates. Exclaiming that to keep the HBCU mission relevant, alumni, once in a position to do so, alumni have to start giving back. Overall, noting that if a product of a HBCU goes on to represent their institution and “do well” that HBCUs will continue to stay significant.
Prior to his 11-minute address to the ECSU Vikings, Bakari was asked what words of advice he had for HBCU graduates. He stated, “Enjoy today first, because you’ve made it this far, and to be completely honest, there’s not a level of expectation in our communities anymore, the world doesn’t expect much out of us, so you’ve accomplished a lot today, and you need to appreciate that and enjoy it, but then you need to set your goal at being great and figure out what you love. Whatever you love, if you put the energy towards it, I don’t have any doubt that these kids can be great.”
Talking to the graduates about becoming catalysts for change in society, he was in high hopes to give the students the jolt of encouragement they needed before walking across the stage.
Catch an excerpt from the speech below:
“Bit by bit, one by one, we are redefining America. Let me repeat that so it sinks in, we are redefining America…People everywhere, students, parents, graduates like yourselves are beginning to rise to their feet. They are beginning to as Gandhi said, be the change they want to see in the world. You see we are redefining America, and not for the first time. In fact, if you look back through the history of this country, you will see that in times of great conflict, bloodshed, and economic upheaval, are almost always followed by great movements for change…The question we must ask is what is America to be this time around Where are we going to go now, and what part will you play in charting the course? Because you see class of 2016, people don’t expect that much from us, but we must play a part. That’s what it means to be an educated American, and as of right now that’s what you are. In fact, that’s what it means to simply be an American because it is not easy. It’s advanced citizenship, and that means you have to participate with vigor, with determination, and with that most American quality, hope.”