“Don’t be a victim of a world that settles for average,” said Bishop Joseph W. Walker III, pastor of Nashville’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church. “Many settle for average because average is easy. As you enter the next chapter of life, you are about to enter a world that will challenge you at every turn and you must be ready to make the hard choices to be at the top of what you aspire to be.”
Walker, recognized by Ebony on the magazine’s ‘Power 100’ list as one of the nation’s most influential African American leaders, applauded the graduates for their determination to complete their university journey, urging them to “use that same determination” to be the best.
“Press your way until you can be at the top of the world. It didn’t matter how you got here or where you came from. It is your determination to defeat average that has you graduating today,” said Walker, leader of the 28,000-member Mount Zion Baptist Church, which he started pastoring in 1992 with 174 members.
Among those who graduated on Saturday were 440 who received undergraduate degrees, 219 receiving graduate degree, and 45 receiving doctoral degrees. Nine graduate students received education specialist degrees, and eight received graduate certificates.
Reflecting on his own climb through the education ladder and professional life, Walker, who holds a Doctorate of Ministry from Princeton University, told the graduates to watch out for skeptics along the way, pointing to many who doubted he would amount to anything.
“In high school because I was an overactive kid, they said I had attention deficit, but I went on and not only finished high school, but I completed my college work at Southern University in three years, earned my master’s degree at Vanderbilt, and went on to become the youngest in my class to get a doctorate at Princeton.”
“Don’t allow anyone to hold you back. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. If I can do it, you can do the same,” Walker, a Baton Rouge, La., native, who has authored and co-authored eight books, told the graduates, to repeated thunderous applauses. “Do not forget to say thank you to those who were there with you along the way,” he added.
TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover, presiding at only her second commencement since taking the helm about a year ago, congratulated the graduates on their accomplishment, and also applauded them for their determination.
“You have endured and prepared yourself to reach this goal which may have seemed unattainable, but you stuck with it,” Dr. Glover said. “You must always remember that you did not accomplish this goal all by yourself. There were parents, relatives, friends and mentors who helped you along the way. Remember to thank them.”
Later, Dr. Glover thanked Bishop Walker for a “wonderful and inspiring” speech.
“You have certainly inspired not only these graduates but all of us here today are encouraged and moved by your words. We thank you,” Dr. Glover said.