Voorhees College Class of 2021 recently received their commencement address from keynote speaker Keisha Lance Bottoms, mayor of Atlanta, about recognizing and using the voice they have to change the world.
After spending at least four years at Voorhees, Bottoms said the graduates now have it ingrained in them that they have a moral responsibility to use their voices to inspire positive change throughout the world. “Graduates, you have the opportunity to change the world, lift up a community, an entire race if you have the courage to do it.’
She said, “The Class of 2021, we have seen your voices in action last summer as many protested across the country crying out in the streets for change. “In each of you, we heard your voices when you voted and made a difference in elections across the country.”
Bottoms said that students sometimes asked themselves questions during their matriculation like, “Am I good enough, do I belong here, am I worthy, what happens if I fail. She said she had to battle with herself, asking the same questions when she ran for mayor of Atlanta because ‘they’ said she was not ready.
She said she reminded herself when she had doubt that “One man’s garbage was my grandfather’s gold, my mother stood on her feet so that I could sit at the table, and then I was reminded that we are the hope of a slave.”
Bottoms said as the graduates leave the protected campus of Voorhees College, they will change the world. “We have seen the power of your voices; we have seen the power of your vote. There will be many who will try and silence you because they refuse to see you,” Bottoms said. “They may even try and silence you because they are in disbelief of the power within you. They may try and silence you because they are afraid of you. They will try and silence you because they simply because they do not value or understand you.”
In response to people who try and silence them, she said the graduates should use their curiosity to seek the truth and their intellect to dissect the difficult. “Use your strength to dismantle systems of oppression and your inner beauty to attract goodwill. Use your courage to battle injustice and your voices to speak truth to power.
Bottoms added, “On those doubtful days when you know you are walking into the fire, during the moments when you are misunderstood or even misrepresented simply because of who you are, remember the words of the poet Audre Lorde, ‘when I dare to use my power in the service of others, it becomes less and less important whether or not I am afraid,’ so as you go out into the world, know that the generations are counting on you to use your voices to change the world.”
She concluded with, “This moment is ours, and generations to come will look to us to see did we stand up, did we speak up and lead our communities, did we care. Begin Believe. Become. I know God will continue to bless and keep each of you. Congratulations Voorhees College Class of 2021.”
During commencement, Bottoms was awarded the degree of doctor of humane letters, honoris causa.
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