Condoleezza Rice Challenges High Point University’s Class of 2016
(GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Unwavering optimism. For Dr. Condoleezza Rice, that’s been the foundation of her family’s legacy. It’s an obligation for those who’ve had the opportunity to receive an education, and it’s the reason that a black girl from Alabama could go on to become the 66th Secretary of State of the United States, she told High Point University’s graduating Class of 2016 today.
“Too often cynicism can be the fellow traveler of learning, and I know why,” Rice said, addressing 10,000 people on the Roberts Hall lawn. “History is full of much cruelty and suffering and darkness. It can be hard sometimes to believe that there’s a brighter future. But for all of our failings as human beings, for all of our current problems, more people today enjoy lives of opportunities than in all of human history.
“This progress has been the concerted effort not of cynics,” she said, “but of visionaries and optimists and idealists who deal with the world as it is but who never stop working for the world as it should be.” Those optimists reflect Rice’s own family as she shared experiences from her childhood, a world that seems nearly incomprehensible for those in the Class of 2016. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, during the Civil Rights Era, and generations of her family endured hardships in the segregated South. Yet numerous family members earned degrees of higher education, including her grandfather, Rev. John Wesley Sr., her father, Rev. John Wesley Jr., and her aunt, Theresa Love, who held a Ph.D. in Victorian literature.
Because they remained optimistic they could receive an education despite challenges like poverty and segregation, her family was able to “change the pathway for the Rices for years to come.” ”Education is transformative,” she said. “It literally changes lives. That is why people for centuries have worked so hard to become educated. Education more than any other force can help to erase arbitrary divisions of race and class, arbitrary divisions of culture, and to unlock every person’s God-given potential.” Rice spoke during a significant graduation for High Point University as it bestowed the first doctoral degrees in its history to educational leadership graduates. Achieving doctoral-degree granting status has been part of a major transformation at High Point University in the last 10 years.
”This is an extraordinary institution for both higher learning and higher living – a place where we embrace a growth mindset and focus ourselves on faithful courage,” said Dr. Nido Qubein, HPU president. “We welcome you, Secretary Rice, and commend your dedication to the academy and those it serves. You’re an outstanding advocate for excellence in both American classrooms and American public service.”
Top highlights from Rice’s speech include:
“It is your responsibility as educated people to help close the gaps of justice and opportunity, and yes, the gaps of freedom that still exist beyond our shores as well as within them.”
“When you find your passion, it’s yours. Not what someone else thinks it should be. There’s no earthly reason that a black girl from Birmingham, Alabama should be a Soviet specialist. But that’s what I wanted to be. Don’t let anyone else define your passion for you because of your gender or the color of your skin.”
“There was a day in my own lifetime when the hope of liberty and justice for all seemed impossible. But because individuals kept faith with the ideal of equality, we see a different America today where ‘we the people’ is more inclusive.”
“When you encounter those who are less fortunate, you cannot possibly give way to grievance [by asking] ‘Why do I not have?’ Or its twin brother, entitlement – ‘Why don’t they give me?’ Instead, you will ask, ‘Why have I been given so much?’ And from that spirit, you will join the legions of optimists who are working toward a better human future.”
“Because of all that my grandfather and my many other ancestors did, even enduring poverty and segregation and second-class citizenship, they understood that education was a privilege, not a right. And that it therefore conferred certain obligations.”
“It’s possible today to live in an echo chamber that serves only to reinforce your own high opinion of yourself and what you think. That is a temptation that educated people must reject. There is nothing wrong with holding an opinion and holding it strongly. But at times when you are sure that you’re absolutely right, go and find somebody who disagrees. Don’t allow yourself the easy course of the constant amen to everything that you say.”
“As an educated person, you have an opportunity to spend your life doing what you love to do. And you should never forget that many people don’t have that opportunity. As you work to find your passion, beware. If you haven’t found it yet, it might just find you.”
“So as you leave, let me ask you to remember a few things. Be passionate about what you choose to do in life. Use your power of reason. Cultivate humility. Remain optimistic and always try to serve others as well as the goals of freedom and peace and justice. Capture this moment forever in your mind’s eye.”
“Education, more than any other force, can help to erase arbitrary divisions of race and class, arbitrary divisions of culture, and to unlock every person’s God-given potential.”
Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of 13 books: Jacob’s Dream! A Story of Bullying in School and Ways to Stop it. Jacob’s Dream! “A Lesson on Numbers and Birds,” “Jacob’s Dream! A Lesson on Alphabets and Continents,” “How to Eradicate Bullying,” “Education Questions to be Answered,” “Current Issues and Answers in Education,” “How to Eradicate Hazing,” “Professional Career Paths,” “Your Answers to Education Questions,” “How to revitalize the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.” “Completing the Dissertation: Tips, techniques and real-life experiences from Ph.D. graduates.” “Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Careers for Children” and Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Animals in Africa. He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected]