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P&G’s Witherspoon challenges students during spring commencement to ‘stay woke’

May 16, 2018

Contact:  Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Alumnus Barron Witherspoon
Witherspoon delivers Commencement address.

Tuskegee University’s 133rd spring commencement exercises on Saturday, May 12 featured 1985 Tuskegee alumnus Barron M. Witherspoon Sr., global vice president for industry affairs at Procter & Gamble, as the keynote speaker.

Before beginning his address, Witherspoon challenged graduates using the words of the 1957 speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave to the Tuskegee Civic Association.

“Graduates be the drum major for righteousness as Martin Luther King Jr. called us to be,” said Witherspoon, a 1985 economics graduate and a 33-year P&G veteran who currently leads the company’s external relationships and partnership with trade associations and thought leaders that affect public policy and industry standards across the consumer goods industry.

Witherspoon combined the words of a preceding generation with more common vernacular as he continued his challenge calling the class of 2018 to “stay woke.”

“Stay woke graduates, because you are at a point of significant change of direction. We need you to continue leading the way to the American dream,” said Witherspoon.

He reminded graduates the role social media plays, and they must be as present in the “real world” as they are in the virtual world.

“People have become digitally connected and personally disconnected. You are in the digital age and you must remain connected to society,” he added.


Tuskegee University also presented special recognition to civil rights legend and Tuskegee-based attorney Fred D. Gray. Gray championed and safeguarded the civil rights of others through a number of landmark Alabama legal decisions.

The university awarded the spring class of 2018 with a total of 490 degrees: 392 bachelor’s degree, 31 master’s degrees and one doctoral degree. At its College of Veterinary Medicine Spring Commencement Exercises on May 5, the university awarded 66 doctoral degrees in veterinary medicine.

For additional photography, highlights and media coverage from the weekend’s commencement activities, please visit the university’s social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

© 2018, Tuskegee University