tv Senator Kamala Harris Delivers Howard University Commencement Address CSPAN May 20, 2017 8:00pm-8:29pm EDT
let's get it off the back of the american worker. let's have it as a fundamental right available to every single american. [applause] >> thank you. announcer: a look at some recent commencement speeches. harris, thenr, betsy devos, then two executives from the private sector, eileen drake from aerojet rocketdyne holdings inc. and howard schultz from starbucks, and then later rob portman. camilla harris about her experiences at the historically black school and encouraged graduates to speak
out on issues like mass incarceration in the treatment of undocumented immigrants. this is 25 minutes. senator harris: all right. it is good to be home. it is good to be home. greetings. frederick, members of the board, distinguished faculty , thank you for this incredible honor. to the class of 2017, congratulations. [applause]
senator harris and to your families and friends who encourage you and held you up, thank you for all you did. let's hear it for them. [applause] sen. harris:: i have had the honor of speaking at many commencements. but this one is particularly special for me. because decades ago i sat just where you sit now. feeling the embrace of our howard family. best shares at its common values and aspirations. a family shares hardships and a connective history. a family looks for ways to support and inspire one another. our family, includes a young her way through
school and is graduating as a published poet. [applause] sen. harris:: our family includes the fourth rogue scholar in howard history, cameron clark. [applause] harris:: it includes a woman who got elected to an advisory neighborhood commission at 18 years old, the youngest elected official in d.c. history. carpenter.son [applause] and our family also includes those who came before you graduates, thurgood marshall, missouri nail hurston, shirley franklin, dr. lasalle fall, mr. jordan
, elisha cummins and mayor reed. [applause] and now graduates, you are ready to join the ranks. you are finally at your commencement. i want you to look around and capture this moment. hold it in your heart and hold it in your mind. you are now looking at people you will read about for the trailblazing work they will do. you are looking at the faces of friends who will one day ask you two got. their children. -- godparents their children. you maybe even looking at someone you will grow your family with if one or both of you do not know it right now. [laughter] it is going to happen. and graduates, also look back at
the experiences you have already had. remember those first days on the yard. moving into the quad. [applause] to. harris: learning navigate the howard run around to sign up for a class. i know. , or even maybe try to forget all of those late nights at founders and those other late nights at the punch out or l ray. [applause] all, above: above remember you are blessed. because wherever you came from, wherever you came from you now
have the gift, the great come a great, great gift of a howard university education. [applause] you are also part of a legacy that has now entered and thrived for 150 years. when the doors of higher education were closed to black students. when segregation and discrimination were the law of the land. endured when few recognized the potential and capacity of young black men and women to be leaders. over the last 150 years howard has endured and thrived. students have been nurtured and challenged here and provided with the tools and the confidence to soar.
ince this school was founded 1967 -- 1867 howard has awarded more than 120,000 degrees. producedepared and thousands of black lawyers and doctors some artists, writers, dentists, pharmacists, social workers, engineers. [applause] most recently howard has partnered with google to bring more black students into the technology industry. [applause] sen. harris: it certainly prepared me for a career in public service. starting with my first ever political race, which was for freshman class representative of what was then called the liberal arts student council. voices, atent, when the highest level of our
government seem confused about the significance and even the constitutionality of supporting an hpc you i say, look over here at howard university. [applause] harris: graduates, now, you are all official members of what i call the role model club. it is a pretty exclusive club. it includes my distinguished fellow commencement on array. -- on array. -- honoree. classludes the celebrating their 50th anniversary and who marched and fought for justice when jim crow was still the law of the land. [applause] sen. harris: it includes people like charles hamilton houston and thurgood marshall. [applause] who are among mine
and your inspirations for going to law school. that eachs proven generation of power graduates will forge the way forward for our country and our world. now, graduates, it is your turn. let's look at the world you are now entering. you are graduating into a very different time than it was when you arrived, a few short years ago. you are graduating into a time when we see a revival of the failed war on drugs and a renewed reliance on mandatory minimum prison sentences. people who young were brought to america as children fear of midnight knock on their door. throwing millions of working people off of their
health insurance to give tax rates to the top 1% is considered a victory to some. a time when we worry that a late-night tweet could start a war. believehen we no longer the words of some of our leaders and where the integrity of the justice system has been called into question. graduates, indeed we have a fight ahead. it is not a fight between democrats and republicans. oris not rich versus poor, urban versus rural. this is a fight to define what kind of country we are. it is a fight to determine what kind of country we will be. determineght to whether we are willing to stand up for our deepest values.
because, let's be clear, we are better than this. [applause] harris: you know what i am talking about. from the time you all arrived on this campus you participated in the 50th anniversary on the march on washington. you students have joined the fight for justice. you protested from the streets of ferguson, to the house of the united states congress. you have lived the words of james baldwin. there is never time in which the future in which we will work on our salvation. the challenges in the moment. -- challenge is in the moment. the time is always now. indeed, the time is always now. because you are a howard graduate, the bar is high. which means you must be on the front line.
you must be at the front of the line. you must be the first to raise your hand. you must lead. the motto of this university, utilitas. truth and service. i know sometimes we are afraid of falling short. it is not that we don't know what we should do, it is that the bar can sometimes be -- feel so high. it takes so much time and effort to reach it. so much sweat and so many tears. being human, we sometimes fall short. that is ok. because you went to howard university, you have a responsibility to keep reaching for that bar and to keep serving. members of17, proud
the role model club, in these unprecedented times you must ask , how will i serve? how will i lead? i have three pieces of advice on how to answer that question. reject false choices. speak truth. you don't need a big title to make it up -- make a big difference. [applause] sen. harris: let's talk about each. first, to lead and drive you must reject false choices. howard taught me, and it has taught you, you can do anything and you can do everything. at howard you can be a football player and a valedictorian. you can be a budding computer scientist and a poet. 4.0 and turn on
the hill and still time -- still have time to have a weekend. day in the day, back in the i would go down to the national mall to protest the united states investment in apartheid south africa. i interned in the united states senate. i chaired the economic society. i was on the howard debate team. i pledged my sorority alpha cap alpha. us. of my sisters are with the notion of rejecting false choices that the howard taught us has carried me throughout my career. attorneythe district of san francisco, as the attorney general of california, and now as the united states senator. [applause] in my career, the
conventional wisdom was that people are either soft on crime or tough on crime, but i knew we should be smart on crime. i was told prosecutors do not need to focus on recidivism. people said, that is not your job, keep locking folks up. as da i launched an initiative to help first-time offenders reenter society and not go back to prison. [applause] toldharris: i was prosecutors should not focus on the needs of children. but we created a bureau of children's justice that took on elementary school truancy. graduates, i share all of this with you to make the point there is no limit to what you can do. you must always detect and reject false choices. you can advocate for environmental justice and you can be a ceo who commits to
cutting your company carbon footprint. you can march on the picket line and be the voice inside the department of labor. you can call for diversity in arts and entertainment and you own,e like howard's bringing to life those hidden figures. you can march for black lives on the street and you can ensure law enforcement accountability by serving as a prosecutor or on a police commission. matters,ty is, on most somebody is going to make the decision. why not let it be you? if we are going to make progress anywhere, we need you, everywhere. sometimes to make change you have to change how changes made. -- change is made. do not be constrained i tradition.
-- by tradition. do not listen when they say it cannot be done. do not be burdened by what has been, when you can create what should be. [applause] sen. harris: like james baldwin said, the time is always now. no false choices. my second piece of advice is that you must speak truth. let me be clear, speaking the truth is different from telling the truth. telling the truth means separating fact from fiction. the earth is round. the sky is blue. howard university is the real hu. [applause] it is true. [laughter] unlike telling the truth,
speaking the truth means you must speak up, and you must speak out. even when you're not being asked. orn when it is uncomfortable inconvenient. juste give you an example, a few years ago after i left howard i was working as a prosecutor during the crack epidemic of the 1990's. it was the height of gang violence in los angeles. had passed these laws that were known as gang enhancement laws come a which meant longer sentences if a person was affiliated with a gang. were new,e laws prosecutors were trying to figure out how to prove these cases in court. one day i was sitting in my office of the courthouse and i heard my coworkers outside my door talking. they were talking about how they were going to prove certain people who were arrested were gang affiliated.
i listened to the conversation. i heard them mention the neighborhood or the arrests had occurred. i heard them talking about the way folks were dressed at the location. i heard them talking about the music they were listening to. hearing this conversation for my office, i knew what i had to do. i stepped out of my office. i looked at them. guys, you know that corner you are talking about in the neighborhood? i have people who live there. you know the close that you were talking about that they were wearing? my family members dress like that. that music? i am about to date myself, that music, i have a tape of that music in my car right now. [laughter] in case you were wondering, the tape was too short. [laughter] so, they looks at me a little
embarrassed. needless to say, they realized they needed to think differently about who does what and who does what where. howard encourages us and expects us to use our voice. graduates, as you leave this place, i promise you you will often find that you are the only one in the room who looks like you. you often find you are the only one in that room who has had the same experience as you have had. you are going to feel very alone at that moment. but wherever you are, whether you are in a courtroom, a boardroom, a tech incubator, whether you are in which -- washington or wichita, you must read this -- -- you must remember this -- you are never alone.
we are all in that room with you every single time, every single day. [applause] sen. harris: the time is now. you must speak the truth. here is my third piece of advice and final story. you do not need a big title to make it up -- make a big difference. after my second year of law school, i was a summer intern at the alameda county da office. there was a big drug bust and i was working on a case. i realized among those arrested was a innocent bystander. it was late on a friday afternoon. most people had gone home. which meant the case would not get called until monday. now, that meant of course this innocent bystander would have been held all weekend. i then started to look more into the case. i learned she also had young children.
no innocent person should spend a weekend in jail. i knew what it would mean if she could not get home, including that she could even lose her children. i sat right there in the courtroom. i waited. i waited. i waited. i told the clerk, we have to call the case. i pleaded for the judge to come back. i would not leave until the judge finally gave in. with the happened, swipe of a pen, this woman got to go home to her children. it would be years before i would run a major prosecutor's office, before i would create policy and write legislation that would be adopted on a state and national level. i did not realize it at that time, but that friday afternoon, in that courtroom, in oakland, california, that woman taught me
that when you see something in front of you that is wrong, you can just go ahead and do what you know is right. it will make a difference. even if nobody but just you and she knows it. [applause] sen. harris: the time is always now. you do not need a big title to make a big difference. thisates, as you begin next and so exciting phase of your life, i have one request of you. when you get your diploma, take a good look at it. remember what is on it. utilitas, truth and service. that is your duty. that is the charge of a howard graduate.
to do next, plan whether you want to design the latest app, cure cancer, or run a business. dentist,ou will be a lawyer, teacher, or accountants, let your guiding principle be truth and service. at a time when there are americans disproportionately in a and brown men trapped broken system of mass incarceration, speak truth and serve. [applause] time when men, a women, and children have been detained at airports in our country so would because of the god they worship, speak truth and serve. [applause] time whens: at a immigrants have been taken from their families in front of schools and outside of courthouses, speak truth and serve. [applause] sen. harris: and at a time of
incredible scientific and technological advances, when we are dreaming of a mission to mars and unraveling the mysteries of the brain and onto for numerous, even in my home state are talking about flying entrepreneurs in my home state are talking about flying cars, speak truth. we need you, the country needs you, and the world as you. -- the world needs you. as allison said to me, boy, we cannot wait until we are in charge. i can't either. neither can our world. get out there and do your thing, your howard family will always be with you, every step of the way. congratulations, graduates. [applause]
bono: what am i doing here? and more to the point, what are you doing here? if you don't mind me saying so, this is a strange ending to an ivy league education. for years and these historic calls thinking great thoughts, and now you are sitting in a stadium better suited for football, listening to an irish rock star in a speech that is so far, mostly about himself. [laughter] what are you doing here? actually, i saw something in the paper last week about kermit the frog giving a commencement address somewhere.
one of the students was complaining, i worked my ass off for four years to be addressed by a sock? [laughter] bono: you have worked your ass for this. for four years you have been buying, trading everything you have in this marketplace of ideas. your pockets are full, even though your parents' are empty. you have to figure out what to spend it on. the going rate for change is not cheap. big ideas are expensive. the university has had its share of big ideas. benjamin franklin had a few. so to justice brennan, and in my opinion, so does judith ronan. [applause] bono: what a gorgeous girl. they all knew that if you are going to live up to your word, live up to your ideals and education, it will cost you. my question i suppose is, what is the big idea? what is your big idea? what are you willing to spend your moral capital, your intellectual capital, your cash, your sweat equity in pursuing
outside of the walls of the university of pennsylvania? ♪ announcer: c-span's washington with newsve every day and policy issues that impact you. coming up sunday morning, author and historian on the career of robert mueller, appointed special counsel to oversee the investigation into russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. then, university of virginia's researcher ken hughes will discuss the history of past presidents who secretly recorded conversations in the oval office. c-span'so watch washington journal live at 7:00 eastern on sunday morning. join the discussion. announcer: education secretary betsy devos wae