Skip to comments.Mississippi College Prepares for Clinton Visit (To Deliver Commencement Address May 18)
Posted on 05/13/2003 5:59:17 AM PDT by mountaineer
Tucked behind a Target store on 500 acres of shaded grounds, little Tougaloo College has survived for 134 years in a relatively obscure corner of academia.
While beloved by its 800-member student body and a hardcore group of dedicated alumni, Tougaloo has struggled with declining enrollment and a chronic funding shortage.
But Tougaloo President Beverly Hogan and other backers of the school are hoping a commencement address from former President Bill Clinton on Sunday and a Democratic presidential debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus will bring the troubled campus some positive attention.
Clinton, one of the world's most sought-after speakers and arguably the highest paid, isn't charging Tougaloo a fee. While Hogan is grateful and honored by the gesture, she said she wants more.
"I'm hoping that Tougaloo College becomes part of the things he thinks about," said Hogan, who met Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas and she directed Mississippi's Office of Federal State Programs. "I won't let him forget Tougaloo."
Though it produces doctors, lawyers and teachers, Tougaloo never attracted the enrollment, money or prestige afforded such other black institutions as Howard University - which has an endowment of more than $300 million and more than 10,000 students.
But Hogan, herself a Tougaloo alumna, and the chairman of Tougaloo's board of trustees, Leroy Walker Jr., believe a visit from a former president confers a seal of approval and a status from which Tougaloo can benefit.
"For a small black college, this will do volumes from the standpoint of public relations," said Walker, who owns 21 franchised McDonald's restaurants. "We are proud that President Clinton hasn't forgotten that these are the kinds of institutions that make a difference to regular people."
C.J. Lawrence, a graduating senior and student government association president who expects to meet the former president on Sunday, said Tougaloo students can relate to Clinton because he was in office in the 1990s.
"I was one election away from being able to vote for him," the 22-year-old said. "He's a president of our lifetime. We got to see him grow just as we grew."
Tougaloo is no stranger to high-profile visitors. Last year's commencement speaker was former Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, a powerful Washington lawyer who drew a record crowd of 5,000. This year, Tougaloo sent out more than 10,000 graduation invitations.
The school will set out 7,000 chairs on the campus green. But since the ceremony is open to the public as well as alumni, school officials are bracing for thousands more to attend.
Workers have planted shrubs along the route Clinton may take when he arrives Sunday, and they plan to put up large banners welcoming him. Even Hogan's on-campus house has received a landscaping makeover.
"You see how it is right now - it's calm and quiet," Tougaloo spokesman Chip Washington said as he walked across the campus last week. "But picture how it's going to be on May 18. Mass hysteria."
U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, a Tougaloo alumnus who helped bring the Aug. 13 Democratic debate to the campus, said all the attention also could help turn the struggling college around.
"This is Tougaloo's time to shine, no doubt about it," he said.
What does she think he can do now? He doesn't need the votes, so he has no motive to help anyone but himself... not that he ever had a different motive. You're right. This is sad.
Who will they ask to speak next year, Betty Currie or Monica Lewinsky?
Yeah, they've sold out of thong panties, locked up all the valuables, and tripled their stock of penecillin.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Former President Bill Clinton on Sunday told nearly 5,400 graduating Syracuse University students to ignore the headlines and focus on the trend lines while taking an active role in public affairs.
"The trend line is, we are growing more interdependent. We cannot escape each other," Clinton said, as more than 19,600 parents and well-wishers looked on inside the Carrier Dome at the school's 149th commencement. [Well, we don't seem able to escape you, Blubba. You're everywhere.]
"We reap enormous benefits and assume greater risks. Your job, as a citizen the world, is to spread the benefits and reduce the risks. To move from an age of interdependence to a global community where we share values and benefits and responsibilities," Clinton said.
.... He reminded students how their world had changed since they entered Syracuse as freshmen in 1999. Not just in negative ways, such as the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, but also in positive ways, such as the sequencing of the human genome by an international consortium of scientists. The former president told students it was his hope that as they went through life they would use their education to draw the distinction between the trend lines and the headlines.
He used the SARS epidemic as an example, pointing to how headlines have focused on the hundreds killed in China and Hong Kong and the tens of thousands of afflicted around the world. The trend line, Clinton told his audience, was the successful response of the global medical and health communities, which came together through the World Health Organization and in a few short weeks identified the virus and how to fight it. "The trend line is ... it was fought by international cooperation," Clinton said.
Another trend line, he said, is that many other infectious diseases still haunt humankind, as well as other unsolved problems, such as terrorism, poverty and global warming. Clinton finished his speech by asking students to serve in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or in some other charitable relief work.
"Not all the work of the world can be done by governments," he said. [First truthful thing he's ever said]
He also urged students to become involved in politics. "Your generation, to be fair, has gotten a bum rap. You do more community service than any previous generation of young Americans, and you should get credit for it," Clinton said.
"But ... you are less likely to vote and participate in politics than previous generations of young Americans. And that's a big mistake because it does make a difference," he said.
Clinton said he wondered whether students were willing "to make the sacrifice and undertake the burdens of public service and public participation. [Like he and Hillary "sacrificed"?]
"You must increase your involvement in American public affairs if you want the kind of world I have talked about today," he said.
Julie Klassman, of Boston, who graduated from the School of Arts and Sciences, said afterward that she found Clinton's words inspirational. "It was nice to hear something of substance [!!!!!] and not just rah-rah words of advice. He made me think about what he was saying. It's a speech I'll definitely remember," she said.
Yep. They will shine, all right.
Maybe next year they can move a step up and invite Mumia.