By: Emmanuel Freeman
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – “To know that she will forever be a part of my TSU history, and to be inducted as an official member of the Tiger family was a tremendous honor to witness.” That statement sums up how Derrick Sanders felt Saturday after hearing Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic and powerful commencement address at Hale Stadium on the main Tennessee State University campus. The Vice President told graduates to seize the opportunities afforded them to “shape the future of our country.”
“Vice President Harris accepted not only the honorary doctorate degree but she accepted the love, worth and fellowship of this great institution,” added Sanders, outgoing president of the Student Government Association, who received his bachelor’s degree in English.
Sanders was not alone in his praise of the vice president’s visit and speech. From the rousing cheers that greeted her as the motorcade entered Hale Stadium, to her inspirational speech, and receiving an honorary degree, sentiments about the vice president have reverberated across the TSU family, graduates, and their families. All are still taking in the historic moment where they got to hear and see the vice president of the United up close on their campus.
Sanders’ mother, Marlene Sanders, who came from Cincinnati, Ohio, to see her son receive his degree from the vice president, described the moment as life changing.
“I was really proud of what Vice President Harris and Dr. Glover did together – two Black women with one goal,” said the proud mother. “I appreciated that she stayed through unforeseen circumstances and took pictures with each graduate. Her words were receptive, appreciative, and encouraging.”
Tiara Thomas, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, whose parents were also in the audience to see her receive her degree in political science, added, “Having Vice President Harris as the keynote speaker was an incredible way to end my undergraduate experience. Her speech gave me chills as I was able to sit on stage with her and see my future possibilities in her.”
Frederick Parson, a TSU alum and Tiara Thomas’ father, said the vice president’s speech was genuine, relatable, and appropriate.
“It not only inspired the graduates but also those in the audience, like my two youngest daughters who look like she does. Kudos to the VP for sharing a special moment in time with us that we won’t forget,” Parson said.
The vice president’s visit to deliver the commencement address at TSU was historic, as it was her first at any university since taking over the second highest office in the land. Citing current domestic and global affairs, Harris reminded members of the Class of 2022 that they are “graduating in an unsettled world” but were equipped to be the change agents needed to make it better for all people.
That note struck a chord with Matthew C. Benton, of Atlanta, who received his bachelor’s degree in business administration.
“The speech was as inspirational and empowering as I imagined it would be, and was exactly what I needed to hear,” Benton said. “I’m thankful to have had a university President like Dr. Glover with the right connections and friendships to bring Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States, to our campus to give the keynote address. I’m forever grateful to President Glenda Glover. My commencement day is a very special part of TSU history, thank you President Glover.”
Jacqueline Payne was also in the audience to see her son, Emmanuel Wallace, receive his degree in agribusiness.
“I was extremely proud to see my son along with his peers graduating, and seeing Kamala made me really feel Black Excellence in its rawest form,” Payne said. Her son, Emmanuel Wallace, agreed.
“Graduating among such a successful and ambitious class is very empowering,” Wallace said. “Having the first black female vice president of the United States deliver our commencement speech while encouraging us to be the change in the world was exceedingly inspirational.”
Jodyn White-Rowell, whose family members traveled from Delaware, Georgia, and Florida to see her receive her bachelor’s degree in agricultural science, said she was inspired.
“Seeing Vice President Kamala Harris, someone who pushes boundaries and inspires others to chase their dreams, come to speak to us encourages me to continue to follow my dreams and push boundaries that are set in front of me,” she said.
Jodyn’s mother, Kimberly White-Rowell, added, “We were so excited to see our daughter and the other graduates walk across the stage. We were also so inspired by President Glover and the commencement speech from VP Kamala Harris who spoke to the heart of all the students, calling the next generation of change agents to the world stage. I can’t wait to see what they all become as educated graduates of TSU.”
You can view the 2022 Spring Undergraduate Commencement on the TSU YouTube channel by visiting tnstate.edu.