Go Get 'Em, UNC Class of '03

Graduation time is always exciting for numerous reasons. I look forward each year to see how the national media covers the story and I have noticed that UNC usually gets a disproportionate share of national attention on this subject. No more so than this year.

In the last two days I have seen a segment on NBC on two separate occasions that show commencement activities at several institutions around the country. In this segment there are 6 shots of activities at UNC and we were the only one where the institution could be identified without the name being flashed on the screen. Signs, mementos, etc.

I'm not sure why we are the focal point for the national television attention but my theory is that UNC and the U.S. military academies are attractive to television because there are some things about graduation at these schools that are unique. At Carolina, its the color of the caps and gowns. Don't think for a minute that this aspect of graduation is not attractive to the television folks. It's also interesting that the "University of North Carolina" was not flashed on the screen a single time when the Carolina scenes were shown while many of the other institutions were identified. It's almost as though everyone is supposed to know they are watching Carolina. At the military academies, of course, its the cap throwing ritual that is so unique and exciting.

One interesting part of the NBC piece showed former President Clinton delivering the commencement address at Tougaloo College. I had never heard of this school and this surprised me since my hobby for years has been to know where colleges are and a little something about the institution. I have found that Tougaloo is located in Jackson Mississippi and really is name Tougaloo College rather than Tougaloo University. It was founded as a university but changed its name to college in 1916. It is a predominantly black institution and was founded shortly after the Civil war. It has a working arrangement with Brown University. I almost fell out of my seat when they showed President Clinton telling the graduates to "do well and do good." It might have had more meaning for me if he had left the second part of that statement off. Only in America.

There were the usual controversies over commencement speakers this year but I think we scored a touchdown with Mr. Huxtable. I'm told that Bill Cosby delivered his address without any notes and that it was well received by the 30,000 people present in Kenan Stadium. Commencement addresses are difficult to prepare and I have often felt fortunate that I have not been asked to deliver one. :-) Most folks can't even remember who delivered their commencement address and I'm included on that list. Of course, it has been 45 years since I graduated. If I can't remember who delivered the address I could hardly be expected to remember what they said.

But Cosby's address was different. I don't think anyone in the class of '03 will have any difficulty remembering that he was the speaker and some just might remember the things he said. I am including excerpts for those of you who have not had an opportunity to review Mr. Cosby's address.

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"I want to tell you how much I love you. I want to tell you how much we all love you. And I want to tell you right now, Class of 2003, whatever is outside, I want you to go inside, inside and discover something that you may have been running away from until today. And that is your own integrity. It takes a lot of work to go in an get it. And it takes a lot of honesty to go in and get it, touch it, feel it, smell it, and be it."

"Be a person who believes in one's self. Be a person who believes that you should, through hard work, have an earned position to move in and up. And not to just look at others passing you by and living through them-to live through yourself. Stop thinking of yourself as small because we, your friends, your relatives, your loved ones, your parents, we've told you over and over what we see."

"So many times, class of 2003, you never wanted to hear it because it might mean that you have to look inside and find something that you've made frightening. You didn't give yourself a chance to see whether or not you were going to crash and burn. You made it so even before you ever tried. And I'm saying to all of you now as a friend, and as someone who loves you., that your integrity, your honesty, your responsibility, you need to check it and bring it out. And the way to start it is to trust all of the people that you've come in contact with since they of not even knowing you were alive and you can't remember it. (RamFanatic note: I don't understand the above sentence but I have checked it several times and something must have gotten lost in the transcription.) Because these are the people who have told you over and over the truth."

"Some of them haven't even gone to college and they are here today for you with hope. I don't want you to fool them anymore...I want you to tell them the truth. I want you to hug them when you see them today and give them your heart and your love. I'm serious about that because some of these people, they didn't finish high school, for whatever reason. These people are not dumb because they can recognize gold. They can recognize a worthful person. And they saw more in you than you saw in yourself. That makes them beautiful people because they love."

"Today is a day for you to cheer and throw the beach ball back and forth, but you've got to come outside this stadium. This is not a protection area anymore. You're out. You belong to us now. And some of us are not gong to tell you how wonderful you are when you aren't...and you are going to find that some tricks are being played outside. You are going to feel that you are not wanted in a lot of places, so you're going to want to come back home, disgusted. Stay out there."

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RamFanatic note: For those who are not familiar with Bill Cosby's educational background, he has a bachelors, masters, and Phd. degrees in education. He was also awarded an honorary degree from UNC at the ceremonies this year as was Reynolds Price, a Duke University professor and writer from Raleigh. I have never met Mr.( or is it Dr.) Price but he was a student at Needham Broughton High School in Raleigh at the same time I was a student at the now defunct Hugh Morson High School which was located where the new post office is near the old city market.