Paul Quinn CollegeCommencement Ceremonies
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Introduction and thanks
· Dr. Sorrell, esteemed faculty, alumni and Class of 2015!—what an honor it is for me to be with you today, your day of great achievement and celebration!
· I bring you fond greetings from CitySquare! We feel so connected to you via our AmeriCorps program and Service Works VISTA. . .beyond that Paul Quinn has gone above and beyond to support the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty over the past year—all of which makes us grateful for all of you.
· A word of personal privilege here: I love your President! He works harder than anyone I know; he is a gentle, encouraging soul, with steel in his backbone!
Don’t mess with his students or his faculty!
He is an effective leader in our city. From the location of trash dumps to the creation of an amazing urban farm—the “WE over me” farming enterprise, your President has led Paul Quinn College in such a manner and style that you all make a statement every day about “nation building”!
He has been a leader in resisting easy accommodation while moving on to community building based on honest, clear dialog.
· As students and members of the “Quinnite Nation,” you have accomplished something very special: you have finished the course with diligence, integrity and excellence. You should feel very proud today, for that is how all of us feel about you and your achievements. We salute you and we seek to honor you!
Big Idea: It’s a good thing you are so well-prepared today, because our city and our nation and our world need you, your vision, your hard work and your courage possibly as never before!
1. You’ve noticed, haven’t you, that as a people we are facing a few problems today!
· From Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner to Levar Jones to Michael Brown to Freddie Gray (this is just a few of the scores and scores of similar cases): US law enforcement officers are killing our brothers and sisters without cause and in grave haste.
· Young black men are shot dead by police at 21 times the rate of young white men. Sunday School at the Central Dallas Church—classes on how to handle police encounters!
· Wise persons understand that the seething anger, resentment and hopelessness that exploded this past week in riots in Baltimore has been a long time coming.
· Consider just a few of the harsh “facts of life” in America today:
a. The net worth of the average Black family in U. S. today is $6,314; for white households it’s $110,500.
b. U. S. has greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid—whites earn 18 times as much as African Americans; in S. Africa in 1970 the ration was 15 to 1.
c. The black-white income gap is 40% greater today than in 1967.
d. A black male born today in the U. S. has a life expectancy 5 years shorter than a white male.
e. The “war on drugs” has failed if the intention was to end the use of drugs; instead it has led to mass incarceration—black men in their 20s w/o a high school diploma are more likely to be incarcerated than employed; nearly 70% of middle-aged black men who never graduated high school have been imprisoned! The U. S. imprisons a higher % of its black population than South Africa did during apartheid.
f. Following the horror of 9/11, Pamela Cantor, a child psychiatrist studied the impact of the terror attack on NYC public school children—the findings were amazing: they found evidence of trauma, but not from the attack—20% experienced a full-blown psychiatric disorder and 68% had experienced trauma sufficient to impair their functioning at school.
The source of the trauma: neighborhoods surrounding the poorest inner city schools—violence, inadequate housing, sudden family loss, parents with depression/addictions, etc.
g. The data in Dallas is worse than Baltimore: 38% of our kids live in poverty; the unemployment rate in southern Dallas is over 14% compared to 4% city wide; and it’s worse in concentrated areas of poverty.
h. I was moved by the words of one young gang member in Baltimore as he spoke to older African American leaders, “You don’t understand our struggle; our struggle is different from your struggle; we don’t Dr. King or Malcolm. Our struggle is different.”
Nicholas Kristof put it correctly this week: The real crisis isn’t one night of young men in the street rioting. It’s something perhaps even more inexcusable — our own complacency at the systematic long-term denial of equal opportunity to people based on their skin color and ZIP code.
Just what you want to hear on this day of celebration, right?
But, the fact is, your time has come! You’re at the front of the leadership line! We turn to you to lead the battle for justice, reform and a better functioning democracy. It is your time!
2. So what do you do? What will your consider as your plan of action to redeem the nation once again?
a. Embrace risk and failure—it’s the only way anything changes!
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
--Fall in love with swinging for the fence without regard for success
b. Engage your life in the transformation of the world—get involved!
--Never sit out an election.
--Go to town hall meetings.
--Write Op-Ed pieces.
--Insist on accountability in your life and in the lives of those who lead you.
--Mentor a child.
--Raise a child.
--Model for us all.
c. Energize your soul.
--Continue learning—lifelong learners.
--Continue what you’ve begun here: grow, lead, reflect, exercise and battle.
--Establish “improbable friendships.”
--Bust the status quo.
--Find time to be quiet.
--Live the 4 Ls of Paul Quinn College:
Leave places better than you found them.
Lead from wherever you are.
Live a life that matters.
Love something greater than yourself.
d. Empty your treasure chest; pour it all out as your offering to the betterment and beauty of God’s world.
--Invest in brokenness and in great possibilities.
--Stand up for those on the margins.
--Give life all you’ve got and you’ll be a world changer a day at a time.
--As Warrant Buffett said, “Predicting rain doesn’t count. Building arks does.”
Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.
Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.
Dance on a brink.
Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
Intrepid all the way
Walk toward clarity.
At every crossroad
to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.
Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.
Honeymoon with Big Joy!
2. Now go, Quinnite nation and transform the world everywhere you touch it!