U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge exhorted Florida A&M University spring 2023 graduates to stand up and be counted to face the mounting challenges ahead.
“Class of 2023, you are the next generation of leaders who will demand this country lives up to its promise. You are the ones we have been waiting for,” Fudge said. “Your generation will ensure we leave this world better than we found it.”
Fudge, a former mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, didn’t gloss over the size of the hurdles graduates must navigate.
“I know the road ahead may look bright to the dreamers among us, but for the realists, it may look bleak. Every day we are confronted with another tragic reminder of how dark things have gotten,” said Fudge, who served in Congress from 2008 until she was appointed and confirmed to her present role in the Biden administration in 2021.
“Perhaps I have always seen the cup half full. I have seen so much. I have lived through difficult times before, but lately I worry about the future of our nation. This year alone we’ve seen lawmakers, barely older than many of you, expelled for standing up for what’s right,” said Fudge, alluding to the recent events in the Tennessee Legislature. “We have seen rights we have all been taught were inalienable treated like they’re disposable. Our safety has been threatened at every turn.”
Fudge spoke to graduates from the School of Architecture & Engineering Technology, College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) members who were commissioned.
On Friday evening, Calvin Mackie, Ph.D., CEO and founder of STEM NOLA, spoke to about 390 graduates from the Schools of Allied Health Sciences, School of Environment, College of Education and College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Institute of Public Health.
During the third ceremony, Harry Williams, Ph.D., Thurgood Marshall College Fund CEO and president, addressed more than 400 graduates from the College of Science and Technology; College of Agriculture and Food Sciences; School of Journalism and Graphic Communication; FAMU-FSU College of Engineering; School of Nursing; School of Business and Industry; and the College of Law. All three speakers shared advice with graduates to help them navigate the road ahead. However, Fudge added a national perspective as she described some troubling trends across the country.
She warned graduates about the present political climate created by “those who have been charged with the important task of leading us and have taken advantage of their power. Used it not to create opportunity for all, but to infringe on our rights in a sad attempt to send us backwards.”
“I don’t blame you if you feel anxious about what is waiting for you just outside these campus gates. I won’t hold it against you if you’re angry about decisions that have been made about your safety, your bodies; our ability to read what we want and to teach the truth. No matter what some say, Black history is American history. It matters. We matter.”