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Our baccalaureate speaker this year was Pastor Ralph Douglas West of Church Without Walls in Houston. Our chaplain, Rev. Ernest Salsberry, interned with him while in seminary school and reached out to him. I had heard of his church but had not heard him preach until Friday. In addition, I learned that his daughter is a Dillard alumna.

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His message was really on point, especially making the case about supporting our institutions. He used as a text Jeremiah 32:1–15. Verse 6 describes a time when life was dark for Jeremiah and God sent a word to him. He reminded the grads that a university degree does not prevent life from getting dark sometime.

But this was the part that struck me. Pastor West is a graduate of Bishop College, a now defunct HBCU. He spoke glowingly of the education he received in the classics, still reciting the lessons he learned. But he said Bishop did not exist anymore because people didn’t buy a piece of the future.

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He told the grads (and alums) that Dillard has given them academic life, and it was their responsibility to give that life to someone else. He shared that all of us are here because someone bought part of the future, tangibly and sacrificially. It was their hope in the future, but hope costs.

I’m definitely going to reference this message as I talk to alumni and friends. It is a message for all of us that we have to buy a piece of the future for the next generation.

The Prez

7th president of Dillard University

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