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It’s commencement time for many HBCUs.

Last week I spoke at Fisk University and Saturday I address the graduates at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

As with all commencement speeches, my goal is to  motivate and inspire, something I struggled with this year more than others. I mean, there are always some proud moments that distinguish a class from previous ones.  In 1963, Vivian Malone and James Hood registered for school at Alabama State despite Gov. George Wallace blocking their way. In 1978, the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action.  In 1995, the Million Man March was held in Washington.  In 2008, Barack Obama was elected to the presidency of the United States.

But even with highlights like Gabby winning the gold and the re-election of the Big Chief, we have to face the fact that the class of 2013 will graduate facing major debt and high unemployment.

But I only had to wallow in this puddle of gloom and doom for a short time until I realized that in spite of the way the future looks, getting a four-year college degree is the first weapon in the fight for good jobs most graduates seek.

One article I read outlines the benefits of having a college degree including higher lifetime earning, access to jobs with better benefits, and the fact that it opens the door to networking opportunities that can turn into more. But even if this is true, and I believe it is, the bottom line is most college graduates are going to have to work longer and harder to achieve their goals, even if those goals are as basic as moving out of their mama’s and daddy’s house in two years.

A Different World  was originally published on

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