VP Harris at Tennessee State U Commencement: 'You Graduate Into an Unsettled World...'

By Susan Jones | May 9, 2022 | 7:27am EDT
Vice President Kamala Harris gives the commencement address on May 7,2022 at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris gives the commencement address on May 7,2022 at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - "You graduate into an unsettled world, both abroad and here at home," Vice President Kamala Harris told students at Tennessee State University, an HBCU, on Saturday. "It is a world where long-established principles now rest on shaky ground."

Harris mentioned the COVID pandemic, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and "the principles of equality and fairness" that are being called into question:

"In the United States, we are once again forced to defend fundamental principles that we hoped were long-settled: principles like the freedom to vote, the rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies — (the crowd applauded) — even what constitutes the truth, especially in an era when anyone can post anything online and claim it is a fact.

"We must also grapple with the urgent issues that have not been settled. Some of them have been accelerated during your lifetime, like the need to address the climate crisis. Some we have been struggling with since the founding of our nation: disparities in who has access to healthcare, disparities in how people are treated by the criminal justice system, disparities in wealth and who has access to the capital required to succeed and thrive.

"And, graduates, I look at this unsettled world and, yes, I then see the challenges, but I’m here to tell you, I also see the opportunities.  The opportunities for your leadership.  The future of our country and our world will be shaped by you."

Using herself as an example, Harris told the graduates, "there is no obstacle you cannot overcome, and there is no barrier you cannot break."

"I was around your age when I decided that I wanted to take on systemic problems from the inside of the system, that I would look for solutions through the lens of my own experience and perspectives, and that I wanted and needed to be in the rooms where the decisions were being made," Harris said.

"As Vice President, I spend a lot of time in these rooms. I preside over debates in the United States Senate. I consult with experts at the Goddard Space Flight Center as the Chair of the National Space Council. I host bilateral meetings with heads of state at the White House.

"These are the rooms where decisions are being made.  And these are the rooms that I was taught early on by my family, my mentors, and professors, who always believed that I should know that I could be and should be in those rooms, just as I believe you should be in these rooms.

"Graduates, we need you.  We need you to run companies and make decisions about who has access to capital. We need you to serve at the highest levels of government and determine our country’s standing in the world..."

Harris advised the graduates to "be true to yourself" when they find themselves in rooms where decisions are made:

"Hold close the values that your grandparents, your parents, your pastors, and your neighbors instilled in you.  Have the courage and conviction to follow your moral compass.

"And with that, there is one last message I will leave you with today. I want you all — each and every one of you — to always remember that you are not alone, that you come from people, that you come with people.

"Because I promise you: There will be a time when you will walk into a boardroom or a courtroom or maybe even the Situation Room, and you will walk into the room and find you are the only person in that room who looks like you or has had your life experience.

“And at that moment, you must remember you are not in that room alone.  Always know that you carry the voices of everyone here and those upon whose shoulders you stand."

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