Two days before President Obama handled the commencement-speaker duties for Booker T. Washington High School, Roland Martin did likewise for The LeMoyne-Owen College. by Dorothy Bracy Alston
Special to the Tri-State Defender
Roland S. Martin’s tagline reads political analysist and commentator for CNN, TV One, “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” and host of “Washington Watch.”
And here’s two more items to add – personal friend of President Barack Obama and commencement speaker for the 2011 graduating class of The LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC).
| Roland S. Martin, LOC’s 141st Commencement speaker, said it’s necessary to be passionate about the life one wants to live. The Rev. Hattie Thompson exemplified that as she received her BBA degree a day before her 72nd birthday. Also pictured (right, rear): the Rev. Roger Brown, LOC’s interim director of Institutional Advancement. (Courtesy photo)|
“The only way black folk can remember a speech,” said Martin, “is if you give it a title, so today’s title is “Do You!” And with that bit of Martin humor as a launch point, he took off determined to cajole and inspire the 115 LOC graduates, family, friends and faculty. Between outbursts of laughter and Amens, Martin shared practical life lessons, principles of faith and tips on success, as the audience followed him on his journey to national prominence.
He did not sugarcoat his account of his journey. He told of sickness, car repossession, home foreclosure and bankruptcy.
For example, there was the story of getting sick and having surgery with no insurance coverage on the day he was scheduled to cover the National Democratic Convention when Bill Clinton was being nominated.
And throughout the speech came the refrain, “Do you!”
Martin said, “Only you can live your life and operate the way you want to. You must be passionate about the life you want to live. Only you can drive your life every single day.”
And, he said, “You must know your purpose and your skill set.”
Today, Martin is riding high as he continues to “do him.” He holds out his Blackberry and boasts of having 80,000 Tweeter followers.
Among the graduates was 72-year-old Hattie Mae Thompson, a mother of three, grandmother, great grandmother, ordained minister, and administrative assistant for the last 34 years to the Rev. Dr. James L. Netters, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church.
Thompson began her college career in 1957 when she moved to Memphis from Greenville, Miss., to attend S.A. Owen Junior College on a music scholarship. After two years, she got married and went back to Greenville. She later returned to Memphis, raised a family and found satisfying work as Dr. Netter’s three-decade-plus administrative assistant.
Thompson made a vow to herself and to her parents that she would take care of unfinished business and get a degree in business.
“Through the support and inspiration of Pastor Netters, and because he went to seminary at a late age to receive his DMin degree, it inspired me to go back and stay in school,” she said.
She returned to LeMoyne in 1990 and stopped, and again in 2000 and stopped, but when the LOC Accelerated Degree Completion Program (ADCP) came along, she knew it was her opportunity to get the job done.
Dr. Netters and her church family were lenient and worked with her school schedule. She completed the ADCP business program in the designated eighteen months. Last Saturday, May 14, her family, pastor, church members, LOC alum and staff, and well wishers were there to celebrate with Thompson as she received her Bachelor’s of Business Administration a day before her 72nd birthday on Sunday, May 15.
Of the 115 graduates, there were 61 ADCP graduates. In addition, LOC President Dr. Johnnie B. Watson, a 1956 Booker T. Washington High School graduate, conferred the Doctorate of Humane Letters to Martin, and to Bennie P. Reams, Ed.D. Reams, a member of the LOC class of ’52, has had a stellar career as an educator, provider of psychological services and LOC supporter.