Roland Martin, a commentator for TV One and host of the Sunday morning news show Washington Watch with Roland Martin and a CNN contributor, served as Grambling State University commencement speaker during the school’s 2011 Spring ceremony. He told Grambling State University’s spring class of 2011 to not let people make them change, to provide something for the next generation and keep fighting and never give up.
After energizing the crowd by asking GSU’s Tiger Marching Band to play a selection, he delivered his speech entitled “Don’t Say Toby.”
The well known nationally syndicated columnist and journalist addressed over 480 Gramblinites who were conferred degrees during the ceremony held in the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.
Martin said there are people who will try to change us and try to get us to forget who we are, folks who want us to be enslaved in different kinds of ways.
“Folks want us to make changes, so they can be more comfortable. You can never allow somebody else to break your spirit. When you do, they have won,” said Martin.
He told the graduates they must be in a situation to provide something for the next generation and stop riding on the backs of the previous generations and create their own legacy.
Martin said, “It will be a shame if in 30 years people are not quoting the folks of today.”
“The challenge for us is not to continue to accept the same nonsense again and again. Say, ‘I will not quit. I will not run. I will face every difficulty that you throw at me, and when you get tired of fighting I will still be standing here,'” he said.
Dale Ellis Smith, a criminal justice major from Vista, Calif., was the highest ranking graduate as a result of earning a 4.0 grade point average.
The son of Andrew and Anita Studdard, Smith was active in numerous organizations such as Lambda Alpha Epsilon, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice and the criminal justice honor society Alpha Phi Sigma.
Also, he was awarded the Winn Correctional Center Jaycees Scholarship, participated in a research program at the University of Illinois and served as a mentor for his department’s mentoring program at Swanson Center for Youth in Monroe.
The 14th person in his family to graduate from GSU, Smith has accepted a Teach for America job in an elementary school in Clark County School District in Las Vegas.
He told his fellow graduates, “It’s not about you. It’s about what you are going to contribute to the life of others.”
He said he wanted the graduates to write on the cards that they would receive in the mail who helped them get to GSU and who they promised to help get there.
He said his mother helped him get to GSU, and his little brother is the person he promised to help send.
The summa cum laude graduate ended by quoting Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.”
Others graduating with summa cum laude honors were Abigail Jn Pierre of Vieux Fort, St. Lucia; Nattaporn Tonchak of Ching Rai, Thailand; and Ketra Luke of Mahaut, Dominica.
In addition, some of the members of GSU’s class of 1961 received Golden Reunion Certificates. They were Jessie Mayfield Bishop, Levator Boyd, Nora Griffin Brown, Oletha Blake Dees, Norvell Joseph Coley, Melorse Frank Haley, Velma Lee Pruitt Hudson, Mary V. Satcher, Lizzie Joyce Kately Syas and Salome Taylor.
Also, this commencement marks the first time GSU has awarded its nursing master of science degree for pediatric nurse practitioner.