Robinson urges grads to make the nation stronger
Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post, urged University of South Carolina graduates to do the difficult work necessary to make the nation stronger. “Your presence here today means that you are among the best-prepared young men and women this nation has to offer,” Robinson told bachelor’s and master’s graduates at Friday afternoon’s commencement.
“Use that preparation. Do not settle for what is easy. Go out and do the things that are hard.” Robinson said.
A native of Orangeburg and a graduate of Orangeburg Wilkinson High School, Robinson received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the university. He spoke about the journey that the country has taken from the days when he was a young boy in South Carolina, a time when blacks were not allowed the same rights as other Americans, to today, when an African-American president works in the Oval Office with a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the sideboard.
“It was hard. It was uncomfortable, at times painful, and sometimes it seemed impossible. It required all the intelligence, all the bravery, all the commitment of so many people over so many years -- and still we haven’t finished the journey. We have not. But we’ve come this far because so many Americans were willing to go out and do what was hard.”
The new issues facing the country will be difficult, too, from adjusting to a nation that, within 40 years, will have no racial or ethnic majority, to figuring out how to develop sources of energy that do not harm our fragile planet.
“You have the knowledge and skills to find the solutions,” he said. “It’s the really hard things in life that are worth doing. Go out there and do them.”
Among those graduates ready to start making a difference was Robbie Clifton, who received his doctorate in pharmacy Friday, in the first graduating class of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. The pharmacy schools at USC and the Medical University of South Carolina were combined six years ago.
Clifton, a 26-year-old from Spartanburg, said he always knew he wanted a career in healthcare, originally thinking he wanted to be a doctor.
“I’m a good people person, and pharmacy has that easy contact. I want to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives. I’m excited about it,” said Clifton, who already has accepted a job at a CVS pharmacy in Myrtle Beach.
Christopher Wagner of Columbia was another graduate ready for a career in healthcare. The red cross and the words “Nurse” on the top of his mortarboard gave it away.
He earned a bachelor’s in nursing and is planning to pursue a career in emergency care. His mother was a nurse for more than 25 years, and he credits her with getting him interested in the profession.
“I wanted to be a doctor until I figured out that nurses really take care of people. I changed my major a year and a half in. I’ve been happy every since,” Wagner said.
His friend and classmate, Michael Zane, is getting ready for his third career. After working as a casino dealer in Atlantic City and a manager in home improvement superstores, he decided to go to nursing school. He came to USC three years ago after starting college in Savannah.
“I thought about nursing for a lot of years,” said Zane, 36. “I figure it has guaranteed job security.”
Zane was heading to Atlanta immediately after commencement, where he has applied for nursing positions in several hospitals.
Best friends Chaundrea Lee and Brittany Brown were in their seats 90 minutes before the ceremony began. The two have been friends since pre-school and attended Lower Richland High School in Columbia together before heading to USC. They were sitting seven rows apart in the Colonial Life Arena.
Brown received her bachelor’s in nursing. Lee was graduating with a broadcast journalism degree. She said she is hoping to find a job in sports broadcasting, “but I’m up for anything as long as it’s a job.”
Others were planning to head to graduate school or take a little time off before starting careers.
Thai Phi, a finance major in the Darla Moore School of Business, will leave in August to study in Spain, where he plans to finish a degree in Spanish. After that, the Sumter resident is leaving his options open. “I may go to graduate school or I may move to California,” he said. Viren Patel, 24, a marketing and management major in the Moore School, said he planned to take six months to relax, travel and pursue photography as a career. He is heading to Austin, Texas, and England this summer.
He credited his photography teacher at USC, Toby Morriss, for encouraging him to follow his passion. Morriss was killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this year.
“He changed my life,” Patel said.
The University of South Carolina Columbia campus is graduating 4,400 students this weekend. That includes 2,801 baccalaureate degrees; two associate degrees; 202 law degrees; 78 medical degrees; 106 pharmacy degrees; 49 graduate certificates; 1,035 master’s degrees; 31 specialist degrees; and 96 doctoral degrees.
At Friday afternoon’s ceremony, students in the Darla Moore School of Business, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, College of Nursing, South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Arnold School of Public Health and the College of Pharmacy received degrees. Earlier Friday, the School of Law awarded 202 degrees at commencement exercises on the historic Horseshoe.
William C. Hubbard, a member and former chair of the USC Board of Trustees, and a partner in the firm of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, received an honorary doctor of laws degree. He told graduates they are now qualified to do what lawyers do best – right a wrong.
“That is your opportunity. Even more, it is your responsibility,” Hubbard said. “There is too much rancor, too much yelling, and not enough civil discourse. You can lead a renaissance of civil discourse. It is your duty to do so.”
“Don’t say, ‘I can’t do that.’ Say, ‘How can I make that happen?” he said. “The only limit is the limit of your own courage. Have courage, hope, be civil, right a wrong, and never forget, especially on glorious days like today, to have fun.”
At the Koger Center, the School of Medicine awarded degrees to 78 graduates Friday afternoon. Dr. O’Neill Barrett Jr., a retired doctor and professor of medicine, told the graduates to put the needs of patients and families first as they start their medical careers. “We ought to serve, not be served,” said Barrett, who said that he hoped the new doctors’ “ongoing thoughts will be of the patient, the patient, the patient.”
An honorary doctorate of public administration was presented to Charles D. Beaman Jr., president and chief executive officer of Palmetto Health, at the School of Medicine commencement.
Commencement ceremonies continue Saturday on the Columbia campus, with Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, addressing graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and the South Carolina Honors College at 9:30 a.m. at the Colonial Life Arena. Bernanke will receive an honorary doctorate of business administration at the ceremony. Stephen James Lippard, an inorganic and bioinorganic chemistry researcher and educator, will receive an honorary doctorate of science.
Robinson will address the 3 p.m. commencement Saturday, which honors graduates in the College of education; College of Engineering and Computing; College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management; College of Social Work; School of Music; Fort Jackson Military Base Program; Interdisciplinary Programs; and Palmetto Programs.