Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro Center for Morgan State University December Commencement Exercises

Friday, December 19, 2014
Baltimore, MD

As prepared for delivery

Good morning, Morgan State. Thank you for welcoming me on this special occasion. I'm truly honored to be here today.

I want to thank President Wilson for your kind words and for your years of service in higher education.

Let me also recognize Kweisi Mfume, and the entire Board of Regents, for their leadership. To the distinguished guests, faculty, family and friends here, thank you for supporting today's graduates.

I know that your mentorship and encouragement has meant the world to them. In particular, I want to commend the parents for all the love and support they've provided over the years.

As the father to a young daughter, with another child due any day now, I know that the best title I'll ever have isn't HUD Secretary or Mayor-it's daddy. I'm sure all the parents here know what I'm talking about.

And I ask them to please stand so we can honor them.

Finally and most importantly, I'd like to recognize the headliners of today's ceremony: the Class of 2014.

You did it.

You survived all the late nights at the Earl S. Richardson Library. You now see that there is life after those all-nighters and final exams.

You're leaving here with an education that you'll carry with you for the rest of your life. During your years here, you've enhanced the Morgan State community.

You helped lay the foundation for so much progress. This year's freshman class is nearly 20 percent bigger than last year's.

The Bears football team captured its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title in 35 years. And graduate student enrollment is at an all-time high.

All of you have played a role in building this hub of opportunity. And it's a great pleasure to celebrate you this morning.

The cartoonist, Garry Trudeau, once said that "commencement speeches were invented to ensure that outgoing college students aren't released into the world until they've been properly sedated.'

I disagree.

That's why I want to present y'all with a precious gift - a promise not to talk for too long. I'm sure you've had a lot of late nights recently, and I know you don't want a long morning.

So I promise that I'll be relatively brief.

Graduation days are always full of mixed emotions. On one hand, it's the end of a chapter.

You've probably spent some time reflecting on all the memories. Hanging outside the "refac" as freshman. The step shows behind the University Student Center.

Meeting with folks at "The Bridge." And, of course, all the friends and professors who've made an impact on your life.

On the other hand, this day represents the beginning of a new and exciting chapter. All of you are getting ready to make your own unique mark on the world.

And let me tell you, your time here has prepared you well for this journey. I know this because the Department of Housing and Urban Development is home to a number of MSU graduates.

They've told me that even though they've left Morgan State, Morgan State has never left them.

Take Carolyn Grimes, who helps folks from underserved communities buy their first home. A member of the Class of 2009, she credits Morgan State with teaching her how to use what she has and what she knows to strengthen communities and better people's lives.

Jim Potter is a Community Planner at HUD. He got his Masters Degree here in 1998 and says that this institution taught him that even the most impoverished and disenfranchised communities have the power to improve their futures - and he works every day to fulfill this promise.

Dr. Shelia Wright is our Chief Learning Officer, where she supports the development of our employees. The daughter of a Morgan grad, Shelia got both her undergrad and masters at MSU.

She says that her time here prepared her to stay the course and think strategically throughout her career. And to this day, she says that the folks here feel like part of her family.

As these stories show, all of you are leaving here equipped with the skills and experiences to make a big difference.

But as you bid farewell to Morgan State, you're not only leaving full of opportunity. You also take with you a responsibility-a responsibility to help others get to where you're at.

Today, I respectfully urge you to use your passion, use your knowledge, use the skills that you've learned here to give others a fair shot at achieving their American Dream.

Now, of course, this isn't easy. As you're well aware, the world that awaits you isn't perfect.

Ours is the greatest nation in the world, but in recent weeks alone, we've seen tremendous unrest in Missouri, in New York and across the country.

There's a lot of anger out there, especially in communities of color - and it's not just about the criminal justice system. It's also about inequality.

From the courtroom, to the classroom, to the boardroom, folks feel like the deck is stacked against them and they're frustrated.

And as the President has said, this isn't just a black issue or a Latino issue - it's an American issue. Our whole country suffers whenever one person is denied a chance to reach their full potential.

That's one of the reasons I love my job at HUD. We work tirelessly to help level the playing field for all Americans.

We enforce the Fair Housing Act to ensure that every person, regardless of their background, can live where they want free from discrimination. We bolster economic justice by ensuring that once a person chooses a community, they can afford a rental unit or obtain access to credit to buy a home, if they're ready.

This work is part of a larger opportunity agenda President Obama has put forth.

For example, this year, the President launched an effort called "My Brother's Keeper" which strives to give every young person the support they need to thrive. It brings together philanthropies, businesses, mayors, educators and others to develop local support systems in communities across the country.

Together, they're ensuring that opportunity isn't just an abstract concept - but a reality in the lives of our youth. In total, we're committed to building a future worthy of our greatest hopes and ideals.

And today, I ask you to be a part of all these efforts-and to pursue your own.

We all agree that there is a need for action. Now, it's up to all of us to answer this call.

As you celebrate this special moment, I ask that you commit to the following "be's."

First, be clear with your purpose. When looking to the future, focus on your truth and not on job titles. When I was sitting in your seat back in 1996, I didn't map out a grand plan that 18 years later I would serve in the Cabinet of a President named Barack Obama.

I couldn't have imagined that. But, I did know that I wanted to help people and felt that public service was the best way to do that.

So I decided to dedicate myself to public service - and I've never stopped listening to my truth. I ask you to do the same by always remembering your values, what you're fighting for and why.

Second, be a student for life. Brainpower is the new currency of success in the 21st century. And even though you're receiving your degree, never stop learning.

Always seek out new ideas, new challenges and ever different perspectives. While you may not agree with everything you hear, you will be enriched by your effort.

Third, be bold. There's an old saying that you shouldn't rock the boat, but you must never get so cautious that you stop rowing. That's because you'll never get anywhere.

So be bold like Morgan State grad Earl Graves was when he launched Black Enterprise magazine in 1970, eventually inspiring generations of entrepreneurs and executives.

Be bold like the late Morgan State grad Parren Mitchell was when he spoke out and stood up for the forgotten and underserved as a Member of Congress.

Be bold like Morgan State grad Valerie Thomas was when she declared that a black woman deserves a place at NASA and went on to do pioneering work in science.

In short, be bold about who you are and what you want to do and you're sure to make a difference.

Finally, be urgent. There is a tendency to brand folks your age as "future leaders."

But please don't wait. Our country needs you now. Young people have always been on the frontlines of change.

We need your energy, your ideas and your imagination - and we need them today.

The Morgan State tradition has been built by pioneers.

I ask you all to become New Pioneers. And when you succeed individually, remember to pause and build a bridge so that others can follow you.

For some of you, it will be as business owners that put your neighbors to work. For some of you, it will be in the classroom where you'll help kids get a good start in life.

For others, it will be in the courtroom where you can ensure that justice is colorblind. And, hopefully, for a number of you, it will be in government where you can shape policies that expand the circle of opportunity.

Whatever your path ends up being, remember to make the most of the 24 hours you have every day. Remember to use your talents to help change the odds for the less fortunate.

Remember to be clear with your purpose, to be a student for life, to be bold and to be urgent. And in the years to come, in all of the places that life will take you, may you be blessed by God's grace and the love and support of the people with you today.

May you find your path to fulfillment. And may you leave your own proud mark on our world.

Our nation needs you. Thank you-And best wishes for continued success.


Content Archived: March 15, 2017