Hip-hop recording artist, actor, author and activist Common called on Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) graduates to serve and to make a difference during his 2019 spring commencement speech Saturday.
“Everybody can be great, everybody can serve,” he told applauding College of Science and Technology, College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities and School of the Environment graduates. “One of the most important things I learned about being a leader is being a servant.”
Citing the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the award-winning actor told the large crowd gathered in the Alfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium that graduates have a responsibility for the benefits they have received.
“FAMU your rent is due,” said Common, who received an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts for his activism and his creative work. As a student known then as Lonnie Rashid Lynn, he attended the FAMU School of Business and Industry from 1987 to 1989.
Common then left to pursue a career in music. By the late 1990s, he had gained mainstream success. He has won three Grammys and an Oscar for the Best Original Song “Glory” for the movie “Selma,” in which he played a civil rights leader. His second book, “Let Love Have the Last Word: A Memoir,” has just been published.
On Friday night, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum kicked off the commencement weekend addressing College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, College of Education, School of Allied Health Sciences, School of Business and Industry, and the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication graduates.
The 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee spoke about his personal journey growing up as the son of a bus driver and a construction worker who sold vegetables at the side of the road.
Gillum, who was elected as Student Government Association president and a Tallahassee city commissioner while enrolled at FAMU, told graduates their time on campus should be transformative.
“You should not leave this campus the same way you arrived,” said Gillum, a CNN political analyst and a leader of Bring It Home Florida, a voter initiative.
Saturday afternoon commencement speaker Nicole Wyskoarko also talked about her personal journey from being a struggling Brooklyn Law School student to a music industry attorney who worked with artists such as Kanye West, Alessia Cara and Justin Bieber.
Addressing FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, College of Law, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the School Architecture and Engineering Technology and the School of Nursing graduates, the executive vice president of urban operations for Interscope Records in Santa Monica, Calif., spoke about learning from failure and the importance of having friends cheer you on in the midst of the struggle.
“When you get that feeling deep down in your gut, wherever you want to be, then go there, stay there,” Wyskoarko told graduates. “The fact that you’re all here shows that you have grit and hustle too.”
More than 1,220 students were awarded degrees during three ceremonies.