So speaking of mothers, let me allow me a point of personal privilege to end with a story that speaks volumes about mine.
Summer 1963, when I was just 9 months old, my mother picked me and my brother up and hauled 1700 miles away from Denver to Washington DC so we could be there for a Morehouse Man speech. My mother knew that her boys were too young to remember that speech but she believed that the history that we witnessed that day would forever resonate and become part of the men that we would one day become.
My mom was right as usual. I still feel that day in my bones and it echoes around us here at Morehouse. Decades after that cross-country trip I had the privilege to take my granddad to the opposite side of the National Mall to celebrate the inauguration of the first African-American President.
As we sat in that audience in that cold morning, he pointed to a window just behind the flag in the Capitol Building, he said, “You know grandson, when I was a teenager I used to work in that room right there. It’s the Senate Lounge, I used to serve coffee and tea and take hats and coats for the Senators.” He said “I recall looking out that window during Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration.” He said “Son, I did not see one black face in the crowd that day.” He said “So here we are, you and I watching this.” He said “Grandson, you can see how America can change when people have the will to make a change.”
The beautiful symmetry of our return to the nation’s capital under such different circumstances were not lost on us. The poetry of time and soul that Lincoln called the mystic chords of memory resonated in both of our hearts. You cannot be a witness to history as I have or walk the halls of Morehouse as you have without profound respect for the unsung everyday heroes who generation after generation little by little nudged, shoved and ultimately bent that arc of the moral universe a little closer to justice.
This is a history and the heritage you inherit. This is a responsibility that now lies upon your broad shoulders. True wealth comes from contributing to the liberation of people and the liberation of communities we come from depends upon the grit and the determination and the greatness inside of you, using your skills and your knowledge and your instincts to serve to change the world in only the way that you can.
You great Morehouse men are bound again only by your limits of your own convictions and creativity. You have the power within to be great, be you, be unstoppable, be undeniable and accomplish the things that people thought you never would. I’m counting on you to load up your bus and share that journey.
Now let’s not forget what Dr. King said in his final moments in his famous sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church: “I want to be on your right side and on your left side, in love and in justice, in truth and in commitment so that we can make this old world a new world.”
So graduates, look to your right, look to your left. Actually take a moment; stand up. Give each other a hug. I’m going to wait.
Men of Morehouse, you are surrounded by a community of people who have helped you arrive at the sacred place and on this sacred day. On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we’re going to put a little fuel in your bus.
Now I’ve got the Alumni over there, and this is the challenge to you Alumni. This is my class, 2019.
And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.
Now I know my class will make sure they pay this forward, and I want my class to look at these alumnus, these beautiful Morehouse brothers and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward.
Because we are enough to take care of our own community. We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American Dream and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.
So Class of 2019, may the Sun always shine upon you. May the wind always be at your back. And may God always hold you in the cradle of her hand.