Cory Booker’s commencement address to Hampton University graduates on May 13 was filled with inspirational words, humor and challenges. Booker, Mayor of Newark, N.J., told 1,015 HU graduates that while they have worked hard, they did not get where they are on their own.
“You are a part of a tradition,” Booker said. “Each and every one of the graduates here today does not stand here on their own.”
Booker said that he was humbled when HU President Dr. William R. Harvey invited him to give the commencement address. He spoke of his many connections to HU including writing his honors thesis while in college about one of Hampton’s illustrious graduates Booker T. Washington.
He talked about the many life lessons he learned from his father. Booker’s father grew up poor in North Carolina but with the help of family, friends and neighbors went to college, moved his family to a mostly white New Jersey suburb and became one of the first African-Americans to work for IBM.
Booker said his father reminded him that he was part of a “grand conspiracy of love,” a part of a bigger tradition and not to walk around acting like he hit a triple when he was born on third base.
His father would tell him, “Boy, you drink deeply from wells of freedom and liberty and opportunity that you did not dig. You eat lavishly from banquet tables prepared for you by your ancestors. You sit beneath the shade of trees you did not plant.”
Booker told the graduates that life is full of contradictions.
“If you want wealth, create value for others,” he said. “If you want to fly, fall down often. If you want to change the world change yourself.”
In order to accomplish this, Booker said the graduates needed to have the courage to be who they were created to be.
“We were not born to fit in. We were born to stand out,” he said. “What Lincoln said is true; everyone is born an original, sadly too many die a copy.”
Awards Presented at HU Commencement
Valedictorian Class of 2012 – Melanie F. Spencer, business administration major from Bear, Delaware
Outstanding Alumnus-at-Large Award – The Honorable McKinley Price, Mayor of Newport News, Va.
Outstanding Twenty-Year Alumna Award – Attorney Carla Archie, Vice President and Senior Legal Counsel for Wells Fargo and Company
To view additional images and videos visit http://commencement.hamptonu.edu/.