The Dallas Examiner
The morning of May 4 marked a triumphant moment for 59 of Paul Quinn College’s 2019 graduating class as they walked across the stage to receive their long sought-after diplomas. Notable speakers in attendance included Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere.
The Quinnite graduates not only have a hearty education to take pride in, but they also do so with less debt than your average college graduate – a feat made possible due to Paul Quinn College President Dr. Michael J. Sorrell and a largely successful implementation of the Urban Work College Model.
This success and hard work from the faculty and staff hasn’t gone unnoticed either, especially when considering the $1 million investment from Strada Education Network for expansions in October 2018.
“The legacies of slavery, of segregation, of Jim Crow, of suppression, in every single part of this country – now in the year 2019 – is alive and well. … Power and privilege in this country will continue to accumulate more power and privilege. There is an inertia there that cannot be stopped unless we choose to stop it,” O’Rourke said. “At this moment, it must become absolutely clear to every single one of us, that progress will not sustain itself, that history can roll in reverse, and that no victory is final, and the work is never finished.
“We can take inspiration in those who came before us and fought for these victories, but we can never take comfort in what they’ve done, because we too must fight. President Sorrell reminded me routinely, that no great thing ever comes out of a position of comfort. The good news is that this moment, as perilous, as tough, as challenging as it is, has given all of us an opportunity for greatness. So, let’s make this decision now, that we will go out there and do great things, and we will do them together, truly living ‘We Over Me.’”
O’Rourke spoke on an array of subjects that are important to minority communities, such as voter suppression at the hands of the Texas State Legislature and how it relates to Texas ranking 50th in voter turnout, the importance of DeSoto passing its paid sick leave bill, and how prison reform in Texas is far from being solved.
Furthermore, he spoke about former Paul Quinn student Dexter Evans’ “We Are Not Trash” initiative and how necessary it is to speak out against the preordained powers that exist in Dallas.
Many others also spoke during the graduation ceremony, including co-valedictorians Hugh Washington and Lorenza Najera, Vice President of Academic Affairs Chris Dowdy, as well as Sorrell, who welcomed the crowd early and played emcee throughout the rest of the ceremony to help with transitioning between speakers. Speaking early on in the ceremony, Washington, the first out of the co-valedictorians, shared his life story and encouraging messages about all Paul Quinn has done for him.
“I charge you to trust the process. You are here today because of your resiliency, your grit, your determination, and everything that you have put forward in order to be here today. So, I thank every professor, every advisor, administrator, faculty and staff, and our own leader, commander, President Michael J. Sorrell, for teaching us to lead from wherever we are,” said Washington. “Live a life that matters. I want you to understand that loving something greater than yourself is one of our most important ‘L’s’ that we learn here as a Quinnite. And I want you to know that we will forever leave places better than we found them.”
The ceremony was riddled with requests from speakers and staff that graduates not forget what they learned at Paul Quinn. Washington’s message about not forgetting the “Four L’s” – leave places better than you found them, lead from wherever you are, live a life that matters, and love something greater than yourself – is a great example of that. Such sentiments were echoed by Sorrell, who spoke on taking pride in yourself and your journey, while also adding some thoughtful comments and prayers of his own.
“Thank you for the honor of being your college president and welcome to the rest of your life as Quinnites. It is special what you have accomplished, but you are not done with your accomplishments at all,” Sorrell said. “I pray that you will live a life that matters. One where history will remember your name. I pray that you will leave places better than you found them. I pray that when you leave, you will find a way to lead with love. I pray that you will find something and someone in your life that you can love more than yourself.
“I pray for you that you will forever remember that you were built to lead. And when you are built to lead, you are not built for the sun, because anyone can lead when the sun comes out. You are built for those moments when it’s raining, when it is difficult, when it is challenging. I pray at those moments you will remember what we have done here together and push yourself forward.
“I pray that you will embrace the Homeric ideals and learn both to be speakers of words and doers of deeds. I pray that your work ethic will bless you enough riches so that your children and the rest of your progeny will live a life free of poverty and despair. I pray that when you succeed, you will let them know where you came from.”