By Emmanuel Freeman
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — United States Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, the man who led the congressional investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, told Tennessee State University graduate school candidates to be aware of forces that are trying to change the course of democracy in the country by twisting facts and reality to suit their personal agendas.
Before Congressman Thompson’s address in the Howard C. Gentry Complex, TSU President Glenda Glover congratulated the graduates, parents, relatives, and friends for their support.
“I applaud you for having reached this milestone,” said Glover. “Today is only a steppingstone. We thank you. We salute you.”
Thompson, a civil rights champion who represents Mississippi’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the keynote speaker at TSU’s graduate commencement.
Now serving his 15th term in Congress, Thompson reminded the graduates to make the best of their education and remember to give back to their institution to ensure its continued growth and success.
“So, for this institution and other historically Black colleges and universities to survive in these turbulent times, you are going to have to support it,” he said. “Some of you will become doctors, lawyers, or whatever, but unless you understand what you are faced with right now and what you need to do in this country it is all for naught, because if graduates don’t come back and help, these institutions are in trouble.”
Marque Griggs, who received his Ph.D. in psychology, took Thompson’s message to heart.
“The Hon. Bennie Thompson spoke truth to power and did not mince words,” said Griggs, of Fort Valley, Georgia. “He reminded me of the work in my respective field that I do and must continue to do. There are no shortcuts in working for equality and equity for HBCUs and minority spaces.”
Gwendolyn Berry, a two-time Olympian who received her master’s degree in public health, referred to Thompson as a “good fighter.” The St. Louis, Missouri, native is an American track and field athlete who specializes in the hammer throw. Her mark of 77.78 meter on June 8, 2018, ranks her #7 on the all-time list. She also holds the world record in the weight throw with a mark of 25.60-meter set in March 2017.
Friday was her first time marching in a graduation ceremony. From high school to college, her athletic commitment each time has not permitted her to take part in previous ceremonies.
“This is my first time marching, and I am excited that my family is here with me,” Berry said.
“Congressman Thompson is about a good fight and that is what he demonstrated in his speech. Although people don’t want to hear it, but it is always going to prevail because the people always prevail.”
For two years, Thompson led a bipartisan committee to conduct a thorough investigation into the facts, circumstances, and causes of the attack, and to ensure that it never occurs again.
“In that work, we outlined the dangerous symptoms that we have in this country when people tell things that are not true and repeated it often enough to sometime people believe that it is true,” Thompson told the graduates. “Some people even say what you saw on January 6th really didn’t happen. By obtaining your advance degrees, I compliment you on making sure that you understand the realities of what’s happening in our country.”
Following his address, President Glover conferred the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Rep. Thompson. More than 200 graduates received advance degrees in various disciplines.