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Clark Atlanta Grads Stress Unity, Accomplishment

By Titus Falodun Contributing Writer | 5/24/2013, noon
White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett takes the stage, as Clark Atlanta University’s commencement keynote speaker, Monday, May 20, 2013. This marks CAU’s 24th Commencement Convocation. (Photo by William Tucker, National Newspapers and Publishers Association).

ATLANTA— Following the thunderous reception that accompanied President Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University made its presence known as the President’s Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett, addressed the eager and energetic graduating class of 2013.

Nearly filling the stands and half the field of Panther Stadium, Clark Atlanta University graduates sported their vibrant gowns with pride as family, friends, faculty members and alumni cheered on. And so did Jarrett.

“We need your ideas and your energy, and we need them now,” Jarrett said to the graduating class. “We need you out there helping businesses grow or starting ones of your own, fostering breakthroughs in research, writing the next great American novels, teaching, designing, building, and running for office … Wherever you are headed, we need you to hit the ground running, filled with faith and a firm belief in your abilities.”

But within all the celebration, there is the growing reality of life after college, when the bubble of campus life is burst by the pressures to overcome racial discrimination, find employment, and pay back student loans. And that can cause fear.

“You must learn to not let fear intimidate you,” Jarrett said, in an urgent tone. “It should motivate you! The best way to conquer fear is to first recognize it is a normal human emotion. Then, just work harder than everyone and over prepare.”

These guiding words and values embody the character makeup of Clark Atlanta’s 2013 Valedictorian Lorin Crawford of California and Vietnam-born, Georgia-raised Salutatorian Tam Quach.

Crawford, 22, graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA and Quach, 21, nearly did the same with a 3.92 GPA.

Not only do Crawford and Qauch share academic excellence, they also shared space together, as roommates and “brothers” during their time at Clark Atlanta.

“In our Honors Program, we’re a close knit family,” Crawford said. “And we call each other ‘HP brothers and sisters.’ If we ever have problems or issues, we can really rely on each other. So, for people like me that are traveling from 3, 000 miles away—I have another family to turn to.”

And Quach agrees with his brother.

“To me, Lorin is always supporting me,” Quach said. “Even when we fight, he’s there at the end of the day to support me. Whenever I feel down, he always encourages me to come [and] talk to him. Some days, I wanted to quit, but he really kept me going with school and life.”

It’s through their different experiences prior to Clark Atlanta, and their shared experiences at the university, which has these two students from diverse worlds and backgrounds forging a strong connection that will last long after their shining moment in Atlanta.

But their educational journey is far from over, as Crawford, a newly awarded Duke University Dean’s Graduate fellow is set to pursue a doctorate in statistical science at Duke. And Quach will be attending Georgia State University, in order to earn his master’s degree in criminology.

“I’m only like a 50-minute flight away,” Crawford said about his plans to continue to support and have fun with his brother. “I might have free Duke basketball tickets, so he could easily come over and hangout.”

“I might have to come visit one of these days,” Quach said, with a wide smile.