By Chris Bryant
Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumnus and St. Paul, Minnesota Mayor Melvin Carter called on Summer 2020 graduates to heed the example of their predecessors in making a difference as they venture into the world.
Carter invoked the names of FAMU alumni such as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms, movie mogul Will Packer, Microsoft executive John Thompson and others as he challenged the 400 newly minted graduates faced with a global pandemic, economic despair, and intense racial tensions.
“Our children will call you and me to account for our actions. Now, if that feels like a lot of pressure, believe me, it is, but the endless list of Rattlers who have reshaped the globe in business, politics, health, education, entertainment and every other discipline proves that you too are ready,” Carter said during the Saturday ceremony. “Your final months of college haven’t been what you planned, and I lament that with you. But you too will find that all these trials you faced are uniquely preparing you to fulfill your calling. That fact is clearer than ever for me today in all the ways the world has turned upside down since George Floyd was murdered.”
Carter graduated from FAMU’s School of Business and Industry (SBI) in 2002 and completed a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota. He was elected as Minnesota capital city’s 46th and first African American mayor in 2018.
Carter said he learned a lot about leadership at FAMU. He credited these lessons to his time in SBI, his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Inc., and the track team.
“I learned a leader must surround herself with people who know and can do things that she cannot. I learned that leaders must band together to support and hold each other accountable,” Carter said. “I learned on the track team that real leaders can often be recognized not by their words or speeches but by the mud on their shoes.”
He recalled the tumultuous time while he was at FAMU, when the campus was threatened by a pipe bombing and the historic 2000 Bush v Gore election when he cast his first vote for president.
“The internal flame within me burns even brighter because of the trials that met us there. Looking back at my time on campus reads like a civil rights immersion experience in a span of just a few years,” said Carter, who cautioned graduates they have a responsibility to do more than just succeed.
“As you start this next season, take good care of those people who matter in your life, take good care of your community, and take great care of yourselves because we need you now more than ever,” he said in his 10-minute address.
During the ceremony, President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., spoke about the transformation on the campus with the construction of the 700-bed FAMU Towers residence hall, the new amphitheater and the Center for Access and Student Success, student services building. Like Carter, Robinson also reminded graduates of their heritage as Rattlers.
“As you go into the world, you know better than ever now that your lives were completely changed this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, but you still finished strong. You are resilient, resourceful and well because you are Rattlers. That’s what we do,” Robinson said.
“During this time of uncertainty, we know that you will use what you’ve learned on the ‘Hill’ to make an important impact on the world. We need you now more than ever to share your time, talent and treasure.”
To view the ceremony, visit FAMU’s YouTube page, FAMUTube1887.