Rev. Jesse Jackson Reminds 2012 Grads, "I can do anything in the world, if my heart can believe it."
May 17, 2012
The Rev. Jesse Jackson holds an honorary degree during commencement exercises Saturday at Cheyney University. Photo courtesy of DELCO Times.
By KATHLEEN E. CAREY, Delaware County Times
Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012
THORNBURY — The applause was fierce as the commencement speaker for Cheyney University of Pennsylvania was announced, but it was counteracted by the punctuated echoing chants between the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the graduates sitting before him.
“I can do anything in the world,” he said as his voice boomed from the podium, to which the graduates replied in kind.
“If my heart can believe it,” Jackson continued.
“Stop the violence, save the children,” he said.
And, “Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive,” Jackson said.
Jackson, a legendary civil rights leader who worked with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was honored for his groundbreaking work in the United States and abroad.
After launching two presidential bids in the 1980s, he intervened a multitude of times internationally, from securing the release of captured Navy Lt. Robert Goodman from Syria in 1984 to negotiating for the release of European citizens being held by Saddam Hussein in 1990. In 2000, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
In the audience sat Kaydian McFarlane, a 2011 Cheyney University alum, supporting her boyfriend, Anthony Walker, who was receiving his criminal justice degree. “He has three other brothers, and he’s the only one to complete college,” McFarlane said. She recalled what commencement means. “It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s so fulfilling. You think of all the classes you went to, you think of all the people you’ve met.”
Actor Terrence Howard also received a Presidential Award for Distinguished Service at the ceremony. Howard was nominated for an Oscar for his role as a pimp desperate to change his life through music in the movie, “Hustle & Flow.” “How you deal with change will determine how well you will succeed,” he told the graduates. “Let the petals that fall to the ground, fall to the ground. Make room for new. You can’t go back in time. Keep moving forward.”
Philadelphia residents Latoya Riley and Fala Murray shared their thoughts as they prepared to walk in the processional. “We’re so excited,” said Riley, a psychology major. “It’s been a long road. It’s just great. I’m overwhelmed with excitement.”
During the ceremony, Jackson advised the 235 graduates that their work was not complete with commencement.
“Too much violence, too much war, too much poverty,” he said. “No one has the right to kill anyone. Color must not be partisan … to the protection of the law.”
He said that Mother’s Day was founded by abolitionist and feminist Julia Ward Howe, who wanted to protest war and set apart a day for celebrating peace and motherhood in 1870, not make it a compulsory, compulsive national holiday. “Mother’s Day was to be a working holiday, a holy day,” Jackson said. “Could you imagine the end of war and the beginning of peace?”
Jackson said the degrees issued Saturday were a symbol that the graduates now have the equipment and the preparation to engage in the fight.
“Graduation is a milestone, it’s not an end zone,” Jackson said. “Heal the land.”