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Civil rights leader and activist Al Sharpton inspires graduates to keep achieving , receives honorary degree

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Civil rights leader and activist the Rev. Al Sharpton urged Tennessee State University graduates to continue to build on their achievement.

Sharpton gave the address at TSU’s graduate commencement ceremony Friday evening in the Howard C. Gentry Complex. On Saturday, bestselling author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson will address undergraduate students in the Complex. The ceremony will begin at 8 a.m.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and TSU President Glenda Glover. (TSU Media Relations)

Before Sharpton’s speech, TSU President Glenda Glover welcomed attendees and lauded the graduates.

“I applaud you for having reached this milestone,” said Dr. Glover. “Today is only a stepping stone. We thank you. We salute you.”

Sharpton, a community leader, politician and minister who serves as the host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC, challenged graduates “to be the head of your own fan club.”

“Tonight, you have shown you can achieve something,” he said. “Only you know … what you went through to get here. But through it all, you got here tonight, which proves that you can achieve something, and it proves that you can keep achieving if you use the same discipline and determination you did to graduate here tonight. You can keep going higher and higher if you push yourself to do that.”

Following his speech, Sharpton, who is a longtime friend of Dr. Glover, was presented an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, an honor he said he will always cherish.

Sharpton’s address, which was interrupted with applause several times, seemed to move the audience.

Georgetta Harris-Wyatt received a doctorate in psychology. She said Sharpton’s speech was motivational, that it “encouraged all the graduate students to see beyond where they are now.”

2019 TSU Graduate students .(TSU Media Relations)

She said Sharpton’s words inspired her even more to use her degree to help youth.

“Ultimately, I hope to work with children and adolescents in the juvenile justice system, and help them to rewrite their stories,” said Harris-Wyatt.

Sharpton is no stranger to TSU. In 2014, he came to the university to take up the cause to have TSU’s 1957- 1959 Men’s Championship Basketball Team, the first-ever to win three national titles back-to back, inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

He joined university officials and staff, including President Glover, state officials, community leaders and stakeholders, as he presented his cause during a ceremony in Kean Hall.

As a result of Sharpton’s efforts and that of many others, including TSU alumnus Dr. Richard “Dick” Barnett, a member of all three teams, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced last month that the Tennessee State men’s basketball championship teams of 1957-59 will be one of 12 honorees in this year’s Class of 2019. The class will be celebrated at this year’s enshrinement festivities in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.