The 149th commencement exercises of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff saw more than 200 students claim their undergraduate and graduate degrees Friday morning in the H. O. Clemmons Arena of the Kenneth L. Johnson Sr. HPER Complex.
A large crowd of friends and family filled the stands to capacity as 190 undergraduates and 14 graduate students entered the arena to the familiar tune of Pomp and Circumstance.
U. S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), representing the 7th Congressional District of Illinois, is a 1961 graduate of Arkansas A. M. & N. College — predecessor institution to UAPB — and served as the commencement speaker for the 11th annual fall commencement exercise.
“I urge all of you to hold fast to your dreams,” Davis exhorted the graduates as he quoted several notable passages from the work of Langston Hughes. “I want to take this opportunity to commend and congratulate all of you for your outstanding achievement. As you all sit here basking in your day of glory, know that you didn’t get here by yourself. Your family has been your bridge over troubled waters.”
Davis said the graduates should not stray from their faith as they make the jump into their careers.
“Many of us may say that we are in the worst of times as our nation is mired in one of the worst economic situations since the Great Depression,” Davis said. “There are more people in prison now than at any time in the history of America. You probably already know that a lot of them look like you. In times like these you need an anchor; in times like these you need a Savior; you need your anchor to find solid rock and that rock is Jesus.”
“Include Jesus so that you have your source of strength,” Davis said.
Davis used personal experience to motivate the graduates.
“I come from the small town of Parkdale, Arkansas, which is just up the road from the small town of Hamburg, Arkansas,” Davis said. “When I was growing up I picked cotton. These same hands I used to pick cotton I now use to pick presidents. In every way that you can, lead active lives through civic, social and political endeavors. Those of you who can, I urge you to go on to graduate school; become lawyers and doctors. This is the promise of America.”
UAPB Chancellor Laurence Alexander spoke to the graduates.
“When you go, bring someone else back,” Alexander said. “Stay connected to your alma mater. To whom much is given, much is required. You have been given the keys to success; use them, use them to God’s glory.”