Remarks at the Fayetteville State University Convocation

September 4, 2014
Remarks at the Fayetteville State University Convocation

Chancellor Anderson and the Fayetteville State faculty, administrators, trustees, and alumni; distinguished guests of the university; members of the broader Fayetteville community; and most importantly, students, parents, and friends:  it is a genuine pleasure to join you today as you embark on the new academic year – the 148th at this proud institution!

As the Representative of North Carolina’s Fourth Congressional District, which includes this university and much of the surrounding region, I am pleased to bring greetings on behalf of our state’s delegation to the United States Congress.

Having spent much of my life on college campuses, first as a student and then as a faculty member, occasions such as this hold a special significance for me.  The ceremonies by which we mark the beginning and the end of the school year are important – not merely because we dress and speak more formally and engage in a little “pomp and circumstance,” but because by doing these things, we mark and set aside time for reflection and resolve.

We reflect on what has brought us to this point, often with a powerful sense of gratitude to many, many people.  And we resolve to make the most of the time and opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

You are fortunate today that President Rosalind Fuse-Hall is here to help you make the most of this occasion.  On this I know what I am talking about, because I have known Dr. Fuse-Hall and her husband, Dr. Jarvis Hall, for a long time.  I was Jarvis’s advisor when he first undertook his doctoral studies at Duke.

Some of you have known Ros longer, because she grew up on this campus, but I have the highest admiration for her work at N.C. Central University, particularly bringing the Biomanufacturing Research Institute to fruition.  When I learned that she was to be your convocation speaker, I considered myself especially fortunate to be a part of this program.

As for any charge I might offer you today, let me keep it short and simple:  I urge you to prepare yourself for a life of active, informed, and committed citizenship.  

You will hear from day one about the need to develop “marketable skills,” and indeed, the education you receive will enable you to secure your own and your family’s economic future, and to contribute to the prosperity of our state and our nation in the process.

But your education will also give you a window into the wider world and will equip you to engage:  to understand and advance causes you believe in, to serve those in need and give back to the community, and to take upon yourself serious responsibility for the commonweal.

That may seem like a lofty characterization of a realm that sometimes seems dominated by insulting 30-second TV ads, hyperventilating talk-show hosts, and power-seeking politicians. 

But for people of good will to leave it at that is to engage in a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy.  We must constantly recapture our politics in our democracy, insisting that politics and government serve as instruments of our common purpose.

Fayetteville State can give you critical tools for such active and informed citizenship, but it is up to you to seek out and appropriate this knowledge.  I urge you to place equipping yourself for active civic and community life high among your educational goals.

As the second-oldest publicly supported institution in North Carolina, Fayetteville State takes seriously this dual mission of providing students with the skills to succeed while also equipping them to be members of a broader community.

I’m thinking of initiatives ranging from Gear-Up, which encourages low-income students to aspire to a college education, to partnerships with Fort Bragg, Fayetteville Tech, and the local business community; expanded opportunities for veterans; new programs in nursing, social work, and homeland security; and much more.

There is a great deal to be a part of and a lot of work to do!  May that work be rewarding and pay rich dividends for you and for the community of which you are a part.

Thank you again, and go Broncos!