Grammy award-winning R&B singer Anthony Hamilton emphasized the importance of knowing self-worth in his commencement address to Johnson C. Smith University graduates.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Bojangles Coliseum Sunday morning for JCSU’s 150th commencement graduation. Though Hamilton didn’t sing any of his signature songs, he referenced one — Best of Me — when offering words of encouragement to the 200 undergraduate and graduate students.
“There will be times when you walk into a room, and people are gonna ask you, ‘Why are you here?’” he said. “You’re gonna tell them, ‘I’m here to give you the best of me.’”
Chancellor Clarence Armbrister presented Hamilton with an honorary doctorate in fine arts.
The Charlotte native reflected on the times when he would walk past the campus. He said earning a degree from Johnson C. Smith University has always been an aspiration of his.
“I used to dream of what it would be like to be a part of the Bulls’ family,” he said. “I’m here now, and I don’t take it for granted.”
Hamilton said he was honored to be a part of the 2023 class, citing their efforts and the efforts of their peers in the fight for social justice.
“I admire this generation,” he said. “Whether it’s in the streets against injustice, volunteering in the community, working in the classroom, or speaking out online, you guys are unafraid. You guys are fearless, and you don’t back down.”
Hamilton acknowledged the perseverance the graduates showed by continuing their education during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He shared the challenges he faced, from helping his kids with remote learning to contracting the virus that nearly took his life, he said.
Hamilton said those difficult times made them stronger.
Hamilton’s speech was about “Preserving the past, prioritizing our present and preparing for our future.”
He said preserving one’s past means paying homage to those who paved the way for the freedoms we have today.
To honor them, Hamilton said, we must carry ourselves in a way that respects their legacy and sets an example for future generations.
Hamilton said prioritizing the present means appreciating what you have now, at the moment.
He said preparing for the future means being confident in what you know and being willing to learn more.
Hamilton emphasized the importance of self-worth, reminding the graduates that they will face people who doubt their abilities.
Hamilton concluded that life takes a person places they don’t anticipate going, but they should appreciate the journey.
“Your greatness is not a mistake. You are worthy of it,” he said.
Other notable quotes from Hamilton’s commencement address include the following:
- “Preparing for the future means being equipped with everything you’ve learned thus far and being able to learn and accept knowledge and wisdom from those who you are encountering.”
- “Stay firm on who you are and who you believe you are. Never lose sight of that.”
- “Stay connected to those who love you. Love yourself enough to know who those people are.”
- “You belong here, and you have everything and everything going to get to where you need to go.”
- “Never let anyone blindside you or take away your dreams