NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Parents, families and friends packed the Howard C. Gentry complex on the campus of Tennessee State University Saturday morning.
Normally, the gym would be filled for a basketball game. Instead, family and friends got the privilege of seeing their loved ones graduate from college.
Whether it was a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Associate’s Degree, students beamed with pride as they marched into the gym.
University President Dr. Glenda Glover congratulated the graduates in her welcome statement.
“I applaud you for having reached this extraordinary milestone in your academic career,” Glover told the graduates. “It does not matter how long it took you; you are sitting here this morning because you are graduating. You have endured; it is never too late to be what you might become.”
TSU graduated nearly 450 students.
The commencement speaker was April Ryan, a renowned journalist, White House correspondent and nationally syndicated radio host. She is also seen almost daily on CNN.
In her speech, Ryan told the graduates that getting their degree didn’t guarantee them middle-income status.
“But it lays the foundation,” she said. “There are going to be hurdles; life isn’t a crystal stair. You will be met with issues you have never seen before; but it starts with believing in yourselves. You cannot plan or craft your future but you have to be open to receive it.”
Ryan also mentioned President Trump and how civil rights leaders boycotted a civil rights museum opening in Mississippi due to his attendance.
“I applaud these civil rights leaders for their decision to boycott because it is their right,” Ryan said. “But I also think that the president should go. We need for this president to go and see why the students were sitting in the ’60s. We need this president to understand why Colin Kaepernick took a knee. We need for the president to see the pain from the ‘50s and ‘60s and that slavery was not just a different way of immigrating into the United States with a lady carrying a basket of fruit singing liberty.”
Tennessee Sate Rep. Harold M. Love, Jr., who previously earned a bachelor’s degree from TSU, was in attendance Saturday to receive his doctorate in public policy and administration. He described Ryan as the person with the “right tool” to transform the graduates’ thinking.
“As I sit here and think about getting another degree from TSU, I am excited but also I am concerned about the direction our country is going in with the leadership that we have,” Love said. “I am hopping that our speaker will inspire students to leave from here with their degrees and help transform the world and bring us back to a place of peace, compassion, and responsibility.”