Tennessee State University Spring Commencement speakers, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton and bestselling author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, were presented honorary degrees.
Sharpton gave the address at the Graduate Commencement Ceremony on May 3, and Sharpton spoke at the Undergraduate Commencement the following day.
They received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of their body of work, and their impact on society.
Both men encouraged graduates to continue to better themselves.
“Tonight, you have shown you can achieve something,” said Sharpton, who serves as the host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC. “Only you know … what you went through to get here. But through it all, you got here tonight, which proves that you can achieve something, and it proves that you can keep achieving if you use the same discipline and determination you did to graduate here tonight. You can keep going higher and higher if you push yourself to do that.”
Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University, said to impact the world graduates must be literate, interconnected and transformative.
“You must be ‘LIT,’” he said, attributing the acronym to the young generation’s reference to something fun, good or exciting. “You might think classes are over so you don’t have to read. But you have to be literate in the world we live in because it is important. When you go into the world as proud Tennessee State University graduates they know you come from a great place. You got to be morally and psychologically literate.”
Georgetta Harris-Wyatt received a doctorate in psychology. She said Sharpton’s speech was motivational, that it “encouraged all the graduate students to see beyond where they are now.”
She said Sharpton’s words inspired her even more to use her degree to help youth.
“Ultimately, I hope to work with children and adolescents in the juvenile justice system, and help them to rewrite their stories,” said Harris-Wyatt.
Charles Alexander Hill, who received his bachelor’s degree in business, said Dyson gave him and his fellow graduates “just what we needed to hear.”
“I am very prepared to face the world,” Hill said. “TSU has given me all the tools I need to succeed in my life, and the speaker was very dynamic with his words of encouragement and wisdom.”