It is my honor to receive the degree of doctor of divinity from this great and distinguished institution. Given my knowledge of Mary McLeod Bethune, I am humbled to know that her life, leadership and legacy have now been imprinted on my own life and leadership.
I am aware of the faith and hope she instilled in others, of her desire to be a missionary, of her discipline of reading scripture every morning at 5:30, of her perseverance in the midst of adversities that I can only imagine. She was a disciple of Jesus Christ who transformed the world.
I am humbled by this honor, and I do not take it lightly. In the providence of God, I believe that it must be for some purpose in my own life. And in the call of God, I also know that it must be for some purpose beyond my own life.
She stood, and this institution stands, as a testament to the power of God which overcomes human sin, prejudice, and injustice, through education.
We are in the season of Christmas, and I am reminded of the word from on high to another woman who changed history, another Mary: Mary, the mother of Jesus. The angel said to her, what is impossible for us is possible for God (Luke 1. 37). In the language of the Prayer Book, Mary McLeod Bethune had “read, marked and inwardly digested those words.”
Today I also remember another saint, a native son of this city, Howard Thurman, and I close with his words, which convey the spirit of this season and the unfinished agenda of Mary McLeod Bethune and every one of us:
When the song of the angels is stilled
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To release the prisoner
To rebuild the nations
To bring peace among brothers and sisters
To make music in the heart.
And so---President Jackson, Provost Powell, faculty, graduates and families, students, trustees, alumni and friends---I want to express my profound gratitude. Thank you and God bless you!