Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a graduation speech at Tennessee State University in Nashville on a cloudy Saturday morning. While at the famed HBCU, Harris recognized the pride and joy in the eyes of the students.
“I recognize the pride in your eyes,” Harris said. “I can see it.”
Harris asked the class of 2022 to look at each other and remember their dynamic college experiences, including remote learning and homecoming.
“There are future members of your wedding party in this class,” Harris said. “Someone sitting near you will ask you to be godparent to their child.”
Harris highlighted the uncertain world the students were entering into. She mentioned the war in Ukraine. She said equality and fairness are being called into question and said extreme poverty and wealth were both on the rise. Harris also mentioned climate change. She said voting and abortion rights, which were settled, were now being called into question.
“The rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies are being threatened,” Harris said.
The audience cheered when the Vice President mentioned she graduated from an HBCU, Howard University. Harris told a story about the first time she flew on M2. As the helicopter circled around Howard University’s “The Yard,” the school’s main courtyard. She recalled her days there and said she could “do anything … even if it had never been done before.”
Harris said she was the first to accomplish certain goals in her family and in politics. However, she pledged to the class of 2022 that she cannot be the last.
“I have been many firsts in my lifetime,” Harris said. “And as I look out to all of you, I know I will not be the last. There is no limit to your capacity for greatness. And there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. And there is no barrier you cannot break.”
Harris drilled home the fact that as an ethnic minority, there will be situations in which there will be a lack of diversity. The Vice President inspired the graduates to keep their eyes on their goals.
“I want each and every one of you to always remember that you are not alone,” Harris said. “That you come from people, that you come with people. Because I promise you, there will be a time when you walk into a courtroom and you will walk into the room and you will find you are the only person who looks like you or has had your life experience. And in that moment, you must remember you are not alone.”
Tennessee State University awarded Harris with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. According to a statement read by President Dr. Glenda Glover, who is also the President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the degree recognizes individuals who inspire others, personify excellence, integrity, and commitment, and enhance the public good.
“Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the first female and first person of color in her capacity as the Vice President of the United States of America, and as such makes her an excellent recipient for this award,” according to a statement by Tennessee State University. “For these accomplishments and more, Vice President Harris will be presented with the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.”