Myrlie Evers-Williams’ Commencement Address Full of Memorable Moments

OXFORD, Miss. – Here are some memorable excerpts from Myrlie Evers-Williams commencement address at the University of Mississippi:

“As the sun began to come out, it reminded me of one word: belief. Work toward that belief and it will become a reality.”

“One other word that speaks to who and what you are and what you can become: power. You have the power within you. Do you realize just how powerful you are as individuals and as a group? You can bear and make change in this state, in the nation and in the world.”

“You have the power to do what is right, to do what is just. I ask you, ‘What rests in your hearts?’”

“Being able to look beyond your role at this campus and find your role in this world will not only impact you, but your states, nation and the world. I hope you realize and take seriously the role you will play.”

“I have a long relationship with this university. It changed my life very early as a young woman. I was largely unaware of the ills of society at that time. I thought my husband was out of his mind to seek a law degree from here. ‘It will never happen,’ I said to him.” He told me, ‘It will happen – if not for me, then for someone else who will come after me.’ We have been linked together for 50 years.”

“I want to see Mississippi rise from the very bottom to the very top. Educationally, this place is at the top. Emotionally, let’s be honest: that’s still being worked out.”

“I believe in you, in Mississippi, in America. May we find peaceful dialogue to deal with issues – not walk away from each other. Let’s come together where we can all be proud and all know we have paved the way for others with positive images of equality for all.”

“I have no regrets for what has happened, except one (referring to Medgar Evers’ assassination). That single event changed all our lives. Not just mine or my children’s, but many.”

“Once you graduate from here, you are truly on your own, Make your own decisions and live by them. Medgar Evers did, even when his family members didn’t initially believe in his vision.”

“This proud university has evolved for 165 years. I believe this class, more than any other before it, will have the opportunity to make everything good. I prefer to believe in the good of all humankind; that there are more people of good will than there are who do not feel that way.”

“Education is no longer a pathway to success; it is a prerequisite. Never has a college degree been more important – or more expensive.”

“Graduation is a time for us to reflect on the rich history of this university, and celebrate the excellence of an Ole Miss education.”

“You are more powerful than you think you are. Use that power for the betterment of all people. Be like the eagle. Fly high above the clouds of adversity. Use the storms to lift you higher and rise to greater heights.”

“Will you be an eagle or will you just be a bird hiding from the storm and waiting for it to be over? I truly hope you’ll use your strength as eagles to pass on the good works, good deeds this society needs. Dream the impossible. Don’t be intimidated by anything. Don’t let difficulties tie your mind or break your spirit. You have a bright future. Be strong.”

“We are all human beings. We are all children of God or whatever deity you wish to call upon. I believe in you, I hope you believe in yourselves, too. Not only for yourself, nor for the betterment of Mississippi but for all mankind. Soar! Soar . . . and be free!”

“Mississippi is considered to be the poorest state in the nation. As we push forward in education and human relations, I believe we will see very positive change in the near future. I’m back here to be a part of that change.”

“The state has made great progress, but let’s face it: we still have so much further to go.”

“Medgar did not want to die, but he believed so fully in what he stood for that he had to do it. Medgar’s death broke down the barrier of fear, yet we still see vestiges of racism. You don’t solve emotional feelings surrounding race in a century – probably not even in two centuries. It’s an evolving thing. We have to keep moving forward.”