By Wayne Dawkins
HAMPTON, Va. – Bill Cosby, humorist and holder of a doctorate in education, did not come to Hampton University’s commencement on Mother’s Day to praise a thousand students for receiving degrees.
“Do not use your diplomas as presents; that’s raggedy,” said Cosby. “Tell your mom: ‘I’ve found an apartment and I’m paying.
”Your parents want you to leave. If you want to give presents, put checks that won’t bounce in envelopes.’”
Cosby joked with the students for a few more minutes. Midway into his 28-minute address Cosby turned serious. Regarding the nation’s high unemployment rate and lingering pains from the 2007-09 Great Recession, the entertainer counseled, “Now is the time for you to act on all the things you see that’s wrong in the world.
“Take your pick: Politics. We need honest politicians who will die for the people.”
Too often, he said, leaders are afraid to tell constituents inconvenient and painful truths.
As for civic engagement, Cosby told the graduates to vote and get other people out to vote. Let the indifferent people know they are ruining their chances for success.
He advised the graduates who don’t have jobs yet to volunteer and share their talents with communities in need. Cosby referenced a detail I heard in passing the previous night on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion.” In Detroit, the major city that recently did not have one major grocery store within its city limits, 800 urban gardens have bloomed. People rose up to grow the nutritious vegetables and fruits they were missing.
Although William H. “Bill” Cosby Jr. mostly razzed Hampton University’s Class of ’11, I’m certain the friend of HU President William R. Harvey is quietly proud of the many graduates’ accomplishments.
It’s hard not to be proud of the students coming out of Hampton. I beamed with pride at last night’s Honors College cord ceremony for 35 elite seniors. [Five students are from the school of journalism and communication where I teach and an Art major participated in my spring honors seminar on columnists and column writing].
Among that group, 10 students are headed for medical schools [three each to Boston University and the University of Texas, plus Eastern Virginia Medical School, Morehouse, Temple and UCLA] and three graduates are off to Harvard, Columbia and John Marshall law schools,
Other scholars are en route to financial houses, Teach for America and Google.
At the commencement, the graduates appeared relaxed, comfortable with Cosby’s good-natured jabs, and confident that they will fan out and ably serve America and the world.