‘Work for a cause and not for applause,’ VSU graduates told
12/15/2017, 7:39 a.m.
By Thomas Kidd
Virginia State University graduates received a lesson in delayed gratification last weekend before the 2017 Fall Commencement held Sunday in the VSU Multi-Purpose Center.
Originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 9, the commencement program was postponed a day, keeping eager graduates waiting another 24 hours to receive their degrees, thanks to a storm system that passed through the Richmond-Petersburg area bringing a mix of snow and precipitation and below-freezing temperatures.
“How many of you know that delay is not denial?” the graduates were asked by Roslyn M. Brock, vice president of advocacy and government relations for Bon Secours Health Systems, who delivered the commencement address.
“Despite the weather, we are finally here and it’s your time to shine.”
Ms. Brock made history in 2010 when she became the 14th chair of the national board of the NAACP. She was the youngest chair and fourth woman to hold the position. While she remains on the board, she is no longer the chair.
Ms. Brock, a native of Fort Pierce, Fla., was quick to acknowledge her relationship with another historically black university, Virginia Union University, where she earned her undergraduate degree and a master’s of divinity from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.
She admitted to having mixed emotions about addressing her old college rival.
“I felt some kind of way about being here today,” she jokingly told the crowd, “particularly because of a recent football game.”
She was referring to VUU’s heartbreaking 40-39 defeat on Nov. 4 at the hands of VSU. The Trojans’ win was for the 2017 CIAA Northern Division title. The team then went on to win the CIAA championship.
Trenton M. Cannon, the VSU running back who scored that last-minute touchdown against VUU to clinch the regional title, was among the graduating class.
Rivalry aside, Ms. Brock delivered a message centered on unity and challenged graduates to begin addressing political, cultural and economic issues facing Americans.
“There have been major political, cultural and economic changes since you’ve begun your matriculation here,” Ms. Brock told the class. “You’ve seen the emergence of Black Lives Matter. You’ve seen athletes called S.O.B.s for exercising their First Amendment rights and you’ve seen what can happen when you don’t vote. Elections have consequences,” she added.
While she acknowledged some advancements in the area of civil rights, she noted that too many people remain on the bottom rungs of society.
“If we are to make America great again, we need to find common ground and embrace all people.”
Ms. Brock, who in 2005 created the NAACP Leadership 500 Summit with the goal of recruiting, training and retaining a new generation of civil rights leaders to the NAACP, presented three main points for graduates to remember.
First, she said, remain humble and show gratitude to those who support you. Second, be faithful and remain persistent in making the world a better place for everyone. And finally, be a part of the new front line that inspires, motivates and elevates the community.
“Work for a cause and not for applause,” she concluded.
In addition to conferring 306 degrees on Sunday, the university also recognized the two highest ranking seniors, Stacey T. Bradshaw of Emporia, who earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, and Andrew L. Bolding of Dinwiddie, who earned a bachelor’s in computer engineering.
VSU President Makola M. Abdullah echoed the sentiments of Ms. Brock and added his personal gratitude to the graduating class.
“I want to thank you for not only choosing Virginia State University, but that you stuck with that choice for four years, or five years or six years,” Dr. Abdullah joked.
“It doesn’t matter how long it took you to achieve this goal,” he said. The point is that you hung in there and today you can proudly say you made it.”