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tv   Spelman College Commencement Rosalind Gates Brewer  CSPAN  May 31, 2018 8:22am-8:46am EDT

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officer, rosalind brewer, delivered the commencement address at spelman college in atlanta, georgia. she spoke about her company's decision to have employees undergo biased training following the arrest of two black blue blue at a philadelphia starbucks location. >> thank you. it is such a joy to be here. 34 years ago, i was right where you are at this moment. i was filled with gratitude and knowledge and maybe a little anxiety and a lot of anxiety about what the future might
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bring. and like you, i worked very hard during my four years at spelman college but spelman taught me many things. it taught me how to put my head down and how to get the work done. commencement is a day of celebration. a day when you don't put your heads down, you lift them up. i went to share with you what i see from where i am standing. i see all these beautiful brown faces in flowing caps and gowns and behind you i see a village and i see a village that was spread throughout the world but has joined together for this momentous day. i see the proud faces of parents and grandparents, guardians and cousins and
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friends, people we call family. all these people who loved you, supported you, persevered, sacrificed and prayed for you each and every day and it has always taken a village to graduate one of our own and this too is your day. it looks really good from where i am standing. this is where we all need to be today. i think pres. campbell for her leadership and the warm introduction she gave me. you are a source of such inspiration for the entire spelman family. a quick story here. when dr. campbell called me a few months ago, i secretly hoped she would ask me to speak with your and she began her call, she said rise, in a stern voice as you can tell, i want this year's speaker to be profound, a woman of character
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and culture, a talented black woman who galvanizes many, someone who personifies the values of leadership and service that are hallmarks of our college. i couldn't help but smile as she was talking about here it comes, my invitation. then she said that roz, beyonée just called and she said she couldn't do it. how would you? so i stepped up and as your number 2 choice for graduation speaker this year, let me first say i am honored to be here. but let us gather. so families, fellow trustees and distinguished guests, ladies of alpha kappa alpha, my friends, alumni and my
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childhood friends, i have two frontier from kindergarten, my college roommate, margarita, my loving sister, sandra taylor, who came from detroit, my husband, john brewer, of almost 30 years, warehouse college class of 84, here to support me but here to support you too. join me, everyone, in congratulating spelman class of 2018. [applause] >> spelman women, you are today at an intersection between who you have been and who you must become. who you have been and who you must become, full of hope and knowledge, staring down the face of the daunting challenge,
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stronger than you have ever been and learning with every breath. the generation of spelman women who came before me were all first of a kind. the first black woman, the first black judge, the first black surgeon, a real generation of way makers. my generation is one that you might call generation p for perseverance. we have a job of keeping the fires our grandmothers and mothers for, lived for, died for a live. we remember the pain our mothers and grandmothers went through to earn their place in society, their stories of sit ins and lunch counters because they lived it.
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when we hear fresh stories, these recent stories of essentially social injustice and legalized violence today, it hurts. it hurts twice as much. it hurts for the present and it hurts for the past. we have hugged and kissed those brave women who deserve so much more, they deserve more education when they couldn't get it, they deserve more respect and more opportunity to fulfill their own ambitions, we soaked up their words in generation p and we do that to this day. we carry the weight, the suffering and trauma of a generation of women who came before within us and it is not a burden that drags you down. it is just the opposite. it allows you to fly. in the face of daunting odds,
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spelman women persevere. i may have made this all look so easy, many times i was handled, the most undesirable assignments, the assignment everyone else didn't want or the one that management knew i would absolutely fail at. most times i was counted out even before i was considered in. but it kicked in for me. i always whispered to myself keep your head down and do the work and deliver the results, stay on the plan and sometimes i would swallow my commentary and that was hard. but i never ever held myself back and no matter how high we fly we still see the glass dome constructed by our biased culture and i am still just one
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of a handful of black executives in corporate america and it is now 2018. we see each other and embrace and sometimes run and hug each other but we are black women in a white male world. the women of generation p have always shown exceptional performance in suboptimal circumstances. we endure the indignities of being ourselves. when you are a black woman you get mistaken a lot. you get mistaken as someone who could not have that top job, sometimes you're mistaken for kitchen help. sometimes people assume you are in the wrong place. all i can think in the back of my head is no. you are in the wrong place. the wrong place, that sunken
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place is everywhere deep inside our culture. if there is a place where bias doesn't exist i have not found it. i recall shortly after i was named ceo of sam's club i was invited to an exclusive ceo roundtable in new york city. only 25 invited guests. that is when you get the invitation that says nontransferable. during the reception, i met a fellow ceo and introduced myself like the boys club usually does. rosalind brewer, sam's club. after exchanging pleasantries he asked what do i do at sam's club and i thought to myself what does the invitation say? he said to me do you lead marketing? i said no, that is part of my organization. he said merchandising? at this point i was truly puzzled. after i gave him the side eyes,
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we approached the private room. i ascended to the podium as keynote for the day and i enjoyed the look on his face when my bio was read. it was a good day. just a few years ago i was interviewed on cnn and i made an observation that ignited nothing short of a hell storm. i received death threats. my children's lives were threatened. my resignation was called for by people that didn't even know me. and here is what i said. that triggered such strong emotions. i said a simple line. diversity makes good business
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sense. the reaction that everybody else had really shook me because to me, that was pretty unremarkable. it was a true statement. study after study has proven that diversity is connected to improve profitability, better engagement and working conditions for all. and yet, coming from one of the very few black women in the ring, my comments started a hell storm. the company i worked for supported me and the hell storm finally. over but it was a nasty nasty reminder that every day, people of color face systemic racism so blatant, so emboldened and yet so normalized. [applause] >> if my generation is generation p for perseverance,
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then it follows that you are generation q, which could stand for many things. it could stand for queen, which you are or quakes, which i hope you start, but of all the q words, i would hope that you become generation quest. i hope you continue to seek out education and opportunity and influence and power and truth. that would be a glorious quest. generation quest, what strikes me most today in the roles in which you are coming of age. very few times do i bring my head and heart in the same place. we have come to a place in this america where so much of our politics, media, is a source of
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entertainment. when you view the world through the lens of entertainment it is hard to sort out what is really important and serious issues involved in those issues. what truly makes a difference, i challenge each and every one of you to look through a different lens proactively and often. i suspect that you will gain knowledge, hopefully the unfiltered kind, honest and pure in its form and in its true power. in the past couple years, especially, we have seen an alarming rise in unashamed bigotry and racism, authoritarian ideals, xena phobia and misogyny. these are trying times, absolutely. but what gives me hope is you.
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the very graduates sitting before me. the young activists taking to the streets harnessing technology, to demand justice in unprecedented numbers, protesting is no longer just a weekend activity. i can guarantee you, my recently graduated son called his congressional representative more than he called me. students, especially those at hbc you, are often, by necessity, at the forefront of advocating for social change, whether it be across race, across gender, class, or sexuality. for decades, it has been students who drive historic change in our society, almost as if you are programmed to speak out. that is such a beautiful thing. i didn't feel that way when i was here 30 years ago. during your time at spelman you spoke out about food and
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figured he, campus sexual assaults, safety for lgbt qi a student and worked with pres. campbell to begin making necessary changes for a more just and equitable community. the world took note of spelman college. you need to give yourself around applause because you did that. they challenge spellman and the college stood by him. and support good people for who they are. the world needs people who are alive with strength for the disenfranchised. when she sees injustice in this world the spelman woman is not the kind, to hope someone else will deal with it. we take it head on.
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movement and hashtag campaign like black wives matter, me too, hashtag trans e quality and hashtag never again give ordinary citizens the ability to make their disapproval heard, share their stories, show solidarity, to bring about transformative social change. but it is not enough to tweet. change requires action. a record number of women are currently running for office at federal and state levels. among them is spelman grad stacy abrams. [applause] >> a powerhouse lawyer, businesswoman, author and former house minority leader for the georgia generalissimo, the first woman to hold that position and she is running right here for the governor of
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georgia. [applause] >> if elected, stacy will be the first black woman in the history of america to lead a state from spelman college. you got to love that. so indeed, we are living in a new golden age of american activism. you can only imagine my horror when news carried across the web that in one of our stores two black men had come into meet a friend. the store manager called the police within minutes to remove these two men were arrested. they could have been harmed, they could have been killed. over the past few weeks, i have looked closely into the facts of what actually happened. i have met with the two
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businessman, i have met with the former store manager. [applause] >> all of them, actually, have had their lives deeply impacted by what happened in that philadelphia starbucks. as a black woman, as a mother of a 23-year-old black mail myself, a girlfriend -- chases racism every day because she never had a choice. as a human being, it infuriates me to see acts of hate, acts of entitled, acts of privilege repeating over and over and over and over again in this country. i was mad. [applause] >> i was mad because i thought so hard for so hard, to defend
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my company i deeply admire and had to defend it to the african-american community that i profoundly love. the situation that unfolded resulted in treating two black men in a way that no black mother can accept, no black leader can accept and no spelman woman would never accept. [applause] >> so here is the lesson, generation quest. when mistakes are made and they will be made, how you react will determine who you are. and regardless, if there is a company behind you, or if you are standing alone, these mistakes fall on your shoulders and you must act as you have been taught at spelman college.
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stand up, grab the will and take charge. do not compromise who you are, never. [applause] >> the incident in philadelphia shines a light on a blind spot for us and we saw it for what it was, terrible decision in the words of our starbucks founder, howard schultz, but too often people take responsibility and do nothing. but not me and not under my watch. as has been reported we are closing 8000 stores next week for racial bias training. we brought in brian stevenson, the president of naacp and heather mcgee and we are going to make a difference. we design exclusive curriculums and we train 175,000 employees and our hope is that this will make a difference beyond our
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stores. [applause] >> anyone who crosses the threshold of a starbucks café is a customer. i am proud to say reports of a settlement with the men by starbucks are true as well as the city of philadelphia's new high school program for entrepreneurs influenced by these two young men. there is more goodwill that will come from this incident. that was a tough 30 days. i sat with a lot of sadness and in tough moments and that tough times and major challenge i turned to reading poetry. verse helps. when my angelou says one isn't necessarily born with courage but one is born with potential, without courage we cannot practice any other virtue
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without consistency. we can't be kind, can't be true, generous, or honest and to my a, i say that is right. when james baldwin says the world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it is, make a difference from when you came in, that is my guiding compass. when michelle obama says when they go low we go high, i say graduates, let's do that together. i spent the past several months thinking about what challenge i dare my spelman sisters upon leaving these halls and this is this. use your voice. continue to drive social change, get your self into situations where you can encourage the government to stop spreading hatred and fear, and instead spread
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inclusiveness and welcome. use your stem education to organize. you have a theater archery, use your comedic or dramatic skills illustrate injustice and provoke conversation from the stage. sometimes we use our voices by putting her heads down and doing the work. i recall a time in my life when that is what i did. but never again. sometimes we use our voices to say we made a mistake and we are going to correct it and sometimes we use our voices by saying we belong here, get use to us. [applause] >> progress doesn't just happen. you have to your own jerry and create it right here and right now. i dare you. i want you to have fun, laugh, live a full life. to the class of 2018 i say
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again congratulations and i am so very proud of you, thank you. [applause] >> nikki haley, us ambassador to the united nations and former south carolina governor, deliver the commencement address at her on the martyr, clemson university, she spoke about living a life of active gratitude. this is just under 15 minutes. [applause] >> thank you to the board. it is a great day at clemson

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