As early as 6:30 a.m., friends and family of Florida A&M University (FAMU) graduates and members of the community were lined up in front of the new Multipurpose Center Teaching Gymnasium in anticipation of the first session of the spring 2009 commencement.
Every seat in the new facility began to fill as the processional began and students from the FAMU College of Arts and Sciences, College of Law, School of Architecture and Environmental Sciences Institute marched to their seats.
The audience roared in excitement as the students, who were ready to transcend to graduates, entered the building, and even more when former United States President Bill Clinton appeared with FAMU President James H. Ammons
The Honorable Allen Boyd, District 2, U.S. Congress; Alfred Lawson, District 6, Florida Senate; and Daryl Parks, member of the FAMU Board of Trustees, were on hand to deliver greetings.
Boyd told graduates that today’s society is something different from that of their parents and grandparents, and left them with two thoughts for the day.
“Don’t forget that you did not get here by yourself and continue to be on constant pursuit of that which will make you and those around you happy in life,” he said.
Lawson congratulated the graduates and reminded them that it was their hard work and dedication that brought them so far.
Parks explained to the graduates that they will now have a new responsibility as alumni.
“FAMU has a great story to tell, and it is through you going into the workforce and excelling that we are able to tell that story,” he said.
After an introduction by Ammons, Clinton told the crowded gym that he was glad to be here to christen the new facility and explained the reasons why he wanted to be at the FAMU spring 2009 commencement.
Clinton mentioned some of FAMU’s most recent accolades: students in the School of Business and Industry (SBI) winning national student case competitions, pharmacy and public health students with a 100 percent pass rate on licensure exams and 1/3 of African-American physicists graduate from FAMU.
“FAMU is the top producers of African Americans with baccalaureate degrees in the nation,” he said. “This makes for one of the most diverse student bodies and modern educational opportunities.”
Clinton went on to explain that the world today is one based on interdependence. According to him, this interdependent world has three significant issues that FAMU graduates must address: unequal opportunities to access healthcare; instability; and unsustainable.
“The world is interdependent in good and bad ways,” Clinton said. “We have to do what we can so that our children and grandchildren will stand a chance in this world.”
According to Clinton, we must strive to build a world where our common humanity matters more than petty differences.
“The world is full of people that can talk about a problem, but we have a shortage of people that can do something about it,” he said. “Your generation must be the doers. You are the ‘how’ generation. How are you going to make a difference?”
Following his keynote address, Ammons awarded Clinton with the President’s Award for serving as keynote speaker for commencement. Clinton was also presented with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letter.
Following the presentations, Clinton explained to the audience why he was “worthy” of such an honor.
“Dr. Ammons wanted to make sure that I had the cultural experience necessary to receive this honorary doctorate from FAMU,” he said.
Raising his hand and gesturing to the thousands in the audience, Clinton boldly said, “Rattlers will always strike, strike and strike again!”
PHOTO CAPTION: FAMU President James H. Ammons presents former President Bill Clinton with the President's Award for serving as commencement speaker.