Student Commencement Speaker, 20l2
Thomas Rouse, Master’s of Arts
Good Evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the 2012 Commencement Ceremony for the Department of Africana Studies. Through the years I learned that life is a rocky road and without the guidance of God many of us would not have made it through. I am the product of a single woman, my mother, who raised me to be humble and take advantage of all opportunities given to me in life. To my aunt, grandmother, and sister, I honor you for all the continuous support and love throughout these years. I am the individual I am today because of all the values you ladies embedded in me. To the faculty and staff of the Department of Africana Studies, thank you for challenging and stimulating our minds to always question what we read and never settle for anything less in life. I would like to give special thanks to Dr. Sutherland for allowing me to speak before you.
Class of 2012 please stand and give yourselves and your parents a round of applause! We are the selected few who have made it to the end of the voyage. Before beginning my first year in college, Dr. Carson Carr once said, “Look to your right and left, and one of those individuals will not be at the end of the road with you.” The simple fact that you are here speaks for itself. We all have goals and aspirations, but it is important to keep in mind that though this may be the end of the journey, it is the beginning of a new reality. Out in the world, the University does not shield us, rather you will now face substantial life challenges, and you must make a life for yourselves. Your decisions and choices become evermore important than before.
Despite the challenges that you will face from this moment forward, you have defied stereotypes. You must remain focused, humble, and grateful for what you have accomplished thus far. You have the credentials, now you must work hard to make yourself known in the professional world. You are a significant role model. You are the example of someone who has reshaped the negative image society has about minorities. You are the bird that was caged and is now able to slap its wings and fly high to reach the stars. You are success. Give yourselves another round of applause.
You are success, yes. You have a responsibility with your success. There are those students of color who tend not to help each other out as much as we should. We tend to forget our humble beginnings as we move up and we never look back. As educated individuals, fortunate enough to have earned a degree, it is our responsibility to help others walk in similar paths to ours. Also, no matter how large or small the group, with strategy and hard work, the smallest voice will always be heard. You must never give up.
The faculty of the Department of Africana Studies has pushed us beyond what we thought our limits were. They allowed us to explore the wonders of our minds; they allowed us to become scholars by reading hundreds of pages per week per class. They made us recognize that in order to understand our present we must know our past, and in order to envision a future, we must work hard and make the right decisions, essentially follow our hearts.
We all come from different countries, states, cultures; our histories are the same with a different face. The struggle of the past continues to be ours in the present. Nonetheless, it is a different struggle. It is one of endurance, perseverance, and strong will. Today, each and everyone of you have been lifted to a level of high achievement. Recognize that nothing comes easy. Nothing is given, everything must be earned, and despite having a degree, you still have to prove yourself. Steve Jobs once said “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…living with the results of other people’s thinking…follow your heart.”
Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2012. The best advice I can give you during these moments of joy is to always stay true to yourself, your beliefs, and never let anyone bring you down. We are a people of strength and we can achieve anything if we put our minds to it. Arthur C. Clarke once said, “The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.”
Photo gallery of 2012 Africana Department Graduation
Keynote Address by the Governor General Hall of Jamaica at UAlbany
* Assistant Professor of African-American Studies at SUNYA from 1969-72.
Mr. Gilliam developed and taught courses in Civil Rights/Constitutional Law, and Political/Economic Development.
Ahati N. N. Toure. Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Africana History and Black Studies, Department of History, Political Science and Philosophy, Delaware State University Alumnus Speaker at The Department of Africana Studies' 40th Anniversary Dinner/ Dance Gala held on Saturday, September 26, 2009