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Graduates of Bethune-Cookman Deserved More than Betsy DeVos


I, just like many blacks, was stunned to learn Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was invited to give the commencement speech for the Spring 2017 graduating class at Bethune-Cookman. I wondered what President Edison Jackson was thinking when he extended the invitation.  I know he said, "If our students are robbed of the opportunity to experience and interact with views that may be different from their own, then they will be tremendously less equipped for the demands of democratic citizenship."  I don't know what that actually means in his head but, perhaps, he believes inviting her gives him an open door to the President (as the new "Uncle Tom" for his Millennial graduates)  and an opportunity to be a voice for ALL HBCUs.  Whatever his reasoning was I say it was DUMB!

Did Dr. Jackson forget when Mrs. DeVos referred to HBCU's as "real pioneers when it comes to school choice."  She said "They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater equality."  Dr. Jackson is 74 years old.  Surely, he knows why HBCU's were created in the first place---because black students had NO OTHER CHOICE. He's too old NOT to remember.  And then when she announced she would be speaking at the University, she referred to it as an HCBU on her website--which was later corrected.

I, for one, applaud these young Millennials who protested her remarks at their graduation on Wednesday.  The key words here are "their graduation."  This was "their" day.  This was a day for "their" families and friends.  This was "their" time to celebrate the hard work (and probably some tears along the way). This was not about President Edison Jackson.

No doubt, the conservative viewpoint will applaud Jackson and call the students "liberals" and "thugs" and tell their viewers, "See I told you that's how they would behave!

I realize the students probably had no say in who would be their commencement speaker--just like I had no say when "Miss Lillian" Carter was our speaker.  She was a stand-in for her son, President Jimmy Carter, who had to cancel at the last minute.  The difference is I went to a predominately white University so if Jimmie Carter had been there, he would've been welcomed by black and white students (or at least the majority of them).  But to ask a woman like Betsy DeVos to come and speak to these young Millennials who are preparing to navigate their way through this racist, volatile country with a President who doesn't appear to give a damn about them is a slap in the face.

And then to have DeVos utter these words to them:  "We will not solve significant and real problems our country faces if we cannot bring ourselves to a mindset of Grace.  We must first listen, then speak with humility and genuinely hear the perspectives of those with whom we don't immediately or distinctively agree."  These words would've only made REAL SENSE if her boss had been in the audience and sitting front and center.  The problem with her words is that these young black millennials are being told to remain humble and to stay in their place---rather than go out into the world and be bold and daring, to take chances and know that the sky is not the limit.  Of course, she couldn't say those words because she knew in her heart of hearts they weren't true.  She also knows the employment rate for these black millennials will be higher than their counterparts.

Shame on Dr. Jackson for making such a poor choice and I do not believe Mary McLeod Bethune would approve!

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