Espy message to Jackson State graduates ‘uplifting and galvanizing’

Grad Commencement - C UpdatedGrad Commencement - B Updated 1Grad Commencement -  A Updated 1BY OLIVIA S. GOODHEART

Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Mike Espy spoke to 291 candidates slated to receive graduate degrees at Jackson State University’s commencement exercises held in late April.

JSU interim President Rod Paige called his fellow former presidential cabinet member’s address “uplifting and galvanizing.”

“I want to take just a moment on this solemn occasion and in this dignified moment of tradition to encourage you to stop — for just a moment — and realize that you did not get here by yourself. Someone pushed you; someone prayed for you; someone energized you; someone made you a sandwich; someone wrote a check, or helped you write a check. The point is that you did not get here by yourself. So take a moment to thank the mamas and the daddies, the granddaddies and grandmammas, the children and the spouses and the ‘boos’ who helped you get here this evening,” Espy said.

Espy told the crowd that when he became head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, established by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, he was only 39 years old. He said he had never dreamed in his collegiate years that he would hold such a high-ranking post in his career. Managing 124,000 employees, 14,000 offices and a budget of $62 million was challenging, and he said he felt it was his bond with his family and his community that helped him succeed.


Point of departure

“JSU is an excellent point of departure to propel people forward,” Espy told the crowd.

Reciting a litany of issues plaguing society today including the number of children living in poverty, high incarceration rates in minority communities, attacks on voting rights and educators who have given up on teaching, he said that our country cannot afford for you to give up. Espy urged students to overcome challenges internally and externally, and he cited a news story to prove his point on the erosion of values — even in the classroom. See the following link: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/pimps-hos-math-test-earns-eighth-grade-teacher-time-out-n584191.

“For all of the social, political and economic issues  …  the solution is you,” Espy said. Leave here today knowing that you have the education, the skills and the support you need to solve these problems. We are counting on you,” he added.


“My decision to pursue a doctoral degree was to fulfill a commitment I made to my mom and family as a young girl. While many did not expect this, I knew I could do it. Thus, commencement was a crowning moment for me, and I was happy that my close friends and family were able to participate in person and via online,” said the newly minted Dr. Almesha L. Campbell, who received her doctorate in public policy and administration.

The Byram, Miss., resident is employed at JSU and serves as the director of Technology Transfer, Commercialization and Research Communications in the Division of Research and Federal Relations. Campbell earned her master’s degree in 2012 from the university as well.

Carla Hammond-Harvey received her master of science degree in rehabilitation counseling at the spring graduate commencement ceremony. Hammond-Harvey said she was inspired by the scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

In addition to the awarding of masters, specialists, and doctoral degrees the evening was made notable by the presentation of Golden Diplomas to nearly 80 members of the Class of 1967, who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their undergraduate graduation from JSU.

~~Photos by Charles A. Smith/JSU