by Joya Wesley
Originally posted 12/16/2009
Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole returned to Greensboro as the keynote speaker for the Fall 2009 Commencement of North Carolina A&T State University, and to gratefully accept an honorary degree.
Before proceeding with her address at the Greensboro Coliseum on Monday, she acknowledged that receiving the degree satisfied a long-held desire.
“I always wanted to have the right to say Aggie Pride.”
“In addition to taking this very, very well-earned degree and going out in not the best of times to seek employment, or better yet to go on to more study, I advise you, of course, to try to make a good living. But, I’m going to tell you, even more important is to live a good life.”
She offered four keys to doing the latter:
1. Continue to learn.
“I’m not talking about schooling,” she said, “I’m talking about learning – that incredible, exquisite human experience of remaining open to ideas, learning things that even A&T could not teach you. Asking those questions, figuring out even as you move through your ages, what else you can take on.
2. Be of service.
“I am particularly proud that no one graduates from this university without 50 hours of community service. I think that this university acknowledges the words of Dr. Martin Luther King when he said that ‘life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’
And this I promise you: In the act of doing for others, watch out. Because there is a boomerang effect.”
3. Speak up and stand up against any form of injustice.
“Today, while legalized Jim Crow no longer exists in our country, we still have such a long way to go to rid America of racism, sexism, heterosexism and all of those systems of inequality. Wherever you hear any expression of bigotry, whenever you witness any act of discrimination, speak up and when necessary take action in the interest of justice and equality.”
4. Acquire or deepen a world of interest in the world of the arts.
“Art will speak to your mind and soul about human conditions and it will do so in moving ways. … Quality art connects with that part in each of us that is inspired by what is creative and what is simply beautiful.”