Speaker warns against irrelevancy during George Washington Carver Convocation


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (January 25, 2013) — The Tuskegee University community honored the life and legacy of its most renowned professor, George Washington Carver. After a lively procession of faculty and staff in academic regalia, the 14th Annual George Washington Carver Convocation was held today in the University Chapel.

James R. Talton

Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon
After an invocation by Rev. Gregory S. Gray, dean of the chapel, Antonio Minifield, Student Government Association president, delivered greetings. He shared insights from Carver as well as read a portion of the famed professor’s favorite poem, “Equipment” by Edgar A. Guest. 

“Figure it out for yourself, my lad. You've all that the greatest of men have had. Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes and a brain to use if you would be wise,” Minifield quoted. “With this equipment they all began, so start for the top and say, "I can." ” 

Tuskegee helped to establish hospital

This year’s keynote speaker was James R. Talton, the director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System in Montgomery, Ala. In his introductory remarks, Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon, shared details about Tuskegee’s unique relationship with veterans’ medical care in Alabama. 

“It was the second president of Tuskegee University Robert Russa Moton who allocated 300 acres of the campus of Tuskegee University to establish a VA hospital that is now adjacent to the campus,” Rochon said. “Primarily to serve the needs of black soldiers and to be staffed by black doctors and nurses, something that was unheard of.”

In a passionate address, Talton warned the audience of the danger of becoming irrelevant in American society. Using a biblical story about a king in Exodus 1:8, Talton laid a basis for the importance of remaining an important part of society. 

“The king did not respect Joseph because he had lost respect for Joseph’s people,” Talton said. “The reason the king and the citizens of Egypt did not respect Joseph’s people is that Joseph’s people had lost their relevancy.”

He said a people’s relevancy in America is judged by a virtual balance sheet of contributions to society and deductions of resources. He said a lack of contributions and draining resources makes a people irrelevant, despite individual achievements.

“Irrelevance isn’t about what you do. It is about how you are perceived,” he said. “When you consider the composite African-American community, our cumulative contributions as a people are not viewed as sufficient enough to be something the rest of America can’t live without.”

The enemy within

Talton said the disparities in education and criminal behavior found in black communities are contributing to harmful misrepresentations. Also, he said that classism, prejudice and disdain among blacks are contributing to the decline of society and impeding the achievement of equality.

“The real enemy of a man is that part that keeps bringing yesterday’s garbage to today’s dinner table and feeds on it. And he grows ill from eating rotten food,” he said.

Talton urged the audience not to look at his fiery address as a damning criticism, but as a diagnosis. He concluded his speech by calling the internal and external problems that blacks face a “disease for which you and I are definitely the prescription.”

Talton is board certified in health care management and is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is also a certified physician assistant. He received the Department of Veterans Affairs “Secretary’s Award” for his leadership following the devastating tornado in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on April 27, 2011. 

He is also a recipient of the 2011 Alabama Hospital Association Hospital Heroes Award for his leadership at Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center. After his address, Rochon presented him with the Robert Russa Moton Award for Exemplary Leadership in Health Systems Management. 

Choir performs during Faith Week events

Activities to celebrate Faith Week continued tonight with performances by the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Concert Choir, under the direction of Wayne A. Barr. During their concert at 7 p.m. CST in the University Chapel, the choir sang selections such as Kirk Franklin’s arrangement of “He’s Able” and Hezekiah Walker’s “Lift Him Up.” Faith Week concludes Sunday with All-University Worship service at 9:30 a.m. CST. The guest speaker is Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, professor of theology and ethics at Shaw University Divinity School.

To see a slideshow of Faith Week activities at Tuskegee University, click here.

University professors and staff enter the chapel.

After his address, Talton was presented with the Robert Russa Moton Award for Exemplary Leadership in Health Systems Management. From left: Luther S. Williams, provost and executive vice president; James R. Talton, the director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System; and Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon.

Musician at Gospel Concert.

Gospel Concert participants.

© 2013 Tuskegee University


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