By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Nearly 700 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees in various disciplines at Tennessee State University’s Fall Commencement ceremony on Nov. 20.
The event was held in hybrid format with the live ceremony in the Gentry Center Complex, where U.S. Congresswoman Nikema Williams (D-GA.) addressed the graduates. The ceremony was also livestreamed.
Before Williams spoke, TSU President Glenda Glover lauded the graduates for their achievement.
“I applaud you for having reached this extraordinary milestone,” said Glover. “You have endured, you have withstood, you have survived. We salute you.”
Williams, who took over the seat vacated by the late civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis, challenged the graduates to “live out loud and on purpose, and lead from where you are.”
“Our differences make us powerful, and our values, our stories, and our voices are what make us strong,” said Williams, who was honored with a plaque from President Glover. “As we look forward to what our country can and should be, it’s going to take diverse voices of all backgrounds to keep fighting for the progress that we need.”
Williams also advised the graduates to be ready for opportunities that come their way, and to take advantage of them.
“You can’t always choose the moment; sometimes the moment chooses you,” she said. “As my grandma taught me, if you stay ready, you’ll be ready.”
Williams recalled the events leading up to her being nominated to fill Lewis’ seat. She had just overwhelmingly been re-elected to the Georgia Senate, and she was content with that.
However, under Georgia law, Democrats were required to nominate someone to replace Lewis’ name on the November ballot.
“Running for the 5th District seat was a dream that I had one day, but not that day,” said Williams. “But the moment chose me. and everything that I had done prepared me to answer boldly. I put my name in the running with 132 other candidates, and I emerged on top.”
She told the graduates, “everything that you’ve learned has prepared you for this time.”
“Think about what you’ve learned on this campus, what you’ve learned from your professors and your peers, and commit to bringing it with you along the way,” said Williams. “Think about how you can use your story, and your own power, to connect with others in your community and work with them to create a better world. Tennessee State University graduates, you have everything that you need to step into your power, so live out loud and on purpose, and lead from where you are.”
Graduate Aaron Cauthen of Atlanta, Georgia, said Williams’ speech was inspiring. He said he’s motivated to further utilize what he’s learned at TSU and apply it in the workforce.
“Today means a lot, to get this accomplishment,” said Cauthen, who received a master’s in sports administration. “TSU taught me to get it done. As long as you get it done, in the end, it will work out for you.”
To see a recording of TSU’s 2021 Fall Commencement, visit https://www.youtube.com/user/TSUMedia.