Dr. Benjamin E. Mays’ Centennial Commencement Address, May 30, 1967

Anyone who knows me know I am a fan of Benjamin Mays, whom I consider to be the greatest college president ever. I met him in 1981 when we opened Benjamin Mays High School and Academy of Math in Science in Atlanta, where I would graduate. Dr. Mays had been Atlanta Public School Board president, and retired that year. He died in 1984. I wrote about his influence 8 years ago.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of his last commencement at Morehouse where he gave the address. It is one of his most powerful speeches where he criticized the city of Atlanta for its lack of support, and noted growing challenges from predominantly white institutions that were starting to buy top black students. You can read part of it in this Jet Magazine recap:

One of the things I love about Dr. Mays was his willingness to speak truth to power. This morning I retweeted this quote from Senator Kamala Harris:

A lot has been written about the perceived unwillingness of today’s college presidents to speak out. And then there are folks like me! LOL But I have nothing on Dr. Mays. Here are some of the titles of pieces he wrote:

“Does Integration Doom Negro Colleges?”

“How Christian Can I Afford To Be?”

“What’s Wrong With Negro Leaders?”

“The Supreme Court Decision and Our Responsibility”

He also authored a very thoughtful book in 1969, “Disturbed About Man.” We live in a time where there is a lot that is disturbing, and I hope that more presidents will begin to use the bully pulpit even more to address the issues facing our community.

Even when we’re not asked, even when its uncomfortable or inconvenient.

The Prez

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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