Mass Communication major Cherelle Lynette Perry expresses her excitement as she holds
up her diploma to show family and friends in the audience during Albany State University’s commencement exercises at the Albany Civic Center Saturday.
ALBANY, Ga. — Albany State University President Everette Freeman, casting his eyes toward the crowd at a packed spring commencement exercise Saturday at the Albany Civic Center, welcomed the gathering saying, “Today is another beautiful unfolding story for our Golden Rams family.”
Noting the rain falling outside the arena, Freeman added, “Rain is necessary for growth, and our new graduates must blossom when the moment arises.”
Nearly 350 newly-minted graduates picked up degrees Saturday along with 65 other students who earned specialist degrees.
Lezli Baskerville, the fifth — and first female — president and chief executive officer of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, was the event’s keynote speaker.
NAEOHE is the only national membership, advocacy and capacity-building association for the nation’s 103 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and 92 Predominantly Black Institutions.
“Have faith in yourselves as I have faith in you,” Baskerville said to the new graduates. “Faith is one of two things. As you step out into the world, you will find something on which to stand or you will learn how to fly.
“Be still and listen to the silence within and keep following your inner path while keeping your freedom to be who you truly are. Your future is bright because that is what you will make of it.”
Baskerville advised the grads not to stand still.
“Your responsibility, your task, is to use your newly-minted skills to find your path,” she said. “Shake things up.”
She suggested that the graduates use President Barack Obama as their inspiration.
“Did you ever think we’d see a president with the same skin and hair texture as ours?” Baskerville asked. “But you have to remember the progress made between (Abraham) Lincoln and President Obama did not happen all at once. It came in fits and starts, and the work is not over. You must use your talents to take us to the next level of freedom.
“Use your community-based culture with a healthy dose of self-respect. Use your talent to move people in Southwest Georgia to a higher ground.”
Baskerville advised the new graduates to take advantage of the technology at their disposal.
“Use technology and social media to help set people free,” she said. “Close the gaps in education and incomes to open the gates to those who have been left behind.
“This is your task, this is your charge.”
Baskerville is a lawyer, government relations and equity professional and a recognized expert on equal educational and employment opportunity, education excellence and access, pipeline issues, education funding, best practices in minority student persistence, affirmative action and diversity issues.
Prior to heading NAFEO, she served as vice president for government relations for The College Board and was responsible for shaping and advancing the organization’s legislative agenda.