USAID administrator Shah speaks at 2012 baccalaureate ceremony


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (May 11, 2012) — Tuskegee University started its 2012 spring commencement weekend with a baccalaureate service held for graduates on Friday evening in the Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Center for Aerospace Science and Health Education. 

After a procession that included more than 500 graduates from the institution's seven colleges and graduate school, the Rev. Beverly Bond Cox delivered an inspirational invocation to the audience of parents and friends gathered in the center.

“Lord, they (the graduates) are the shining stars in this room tonight,” said Bond Cox, an associate professor in the university’s education and psychology departments. “Thank you for them and thank you for blessing them.”

Chairman of the university’s board of trustees, retired Maj. General Charles E. Williams and Breana Watkins, Miss Tuskegee University 2011-2012 greeted graduates and guests before a performance by the Tuskegee University Golden Voices choir and the introduction of the keynote speaker, Dr. Rajiv Shah.

Shah, the 16th administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) congratulated the jubilant graduates and praised their decision to attend Tuskegee.

“You chose to attend a school that would not just give you a great education, but instill in you a legacy of service,” he said. “As you graduate tomorrow, I hope you remember the path that first brought you to Tuskegee and tap into that same enthusiasm to make a meaningful impact on the world around you.”

Shah said he also chose to be committed to making a difference and gave a brief overview of his professional path and explained his decision to pursue a career in public service. He also marked the work of renowned Tuskegee University professor and researcher, George Washington Carver. He said Carver’s research helped to transform once-barren land into fertile ground and that improvement transformed American life.

“Dr. Carver’s work stood for something larger. It represented a fundamental American tradition of tackling seemingly impossible problems through science and innovation. And that’s not just an American tradition; that’s a Tuskegee tradition,” Shah said.

Through several innovations and initiatives, Shah said USAID works to combat many of the world’s most persistent problems such as poverty and hunger. He gave details about a number of life-saving technology advances and improvements to education in developing nations.

He said the graduates should not think they cannot help to fight against many of the world’s challenges or be discouraged by the enormity of difficult issues that many nations face. He told the graduating seniors that they still have the ability to make an impact, no matter what type of degree they have earned. 

“In the past year, some of our best ideas have come from young graduates like you,” Shah explained.

After the keynote address, Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon conferred upon Shah an honorary Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa.

Following the baccalaureate service, graduates and their families were treated to a special reception at Grey Columns, the Tuskegee University presidential residence. The event was hosted by Rochon and his wife, Tuskegee University First Lady Patricia S. Rochon.

© 2012 Tuskegee University

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