This Harvard Grad's Powerful Commencement Speech Is Something Everyone Should Hear

This Harvard Grad's Powerful Commencement Speech Is Something Everyone Should Hear
Source: YouTube
Source: YouTube

Donovan Livingston graduated from the Harvard School of Education on Thursday — but the day before, as part of the graduate school's convocation, he performed a powerful spoken-word poem about his role as a Black man, a student and now an educator.

He began by reflecting on America's history of oppressing black people by denying them education. 

"'Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin/ Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.' — Horace Mann, 1848/ At the time of his remarks I couldn't read — couldn't write/ Any attempt to do so, punishable by death."

Source: Mic/YouTube

His speech tied the past to the contemporary, referencing Billie Holiday and Langston Hughes in the same breath as the DREAM Act: 

"I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain/ With veins pumping revolution/ I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree/ I am a DREAM Act, Dream Deferred incarnate/ I am a movement — an amalgam of memories America would care to forget/ My past, alone won't allow me to sit still."

Source: Mic/YouTube

Livingston's speech recalled educators who had made an impact on him as a child before turning to his own students. 

"I look each of my students in the eyes/ And see the same light that aligned Orion's Belt/ And the pyramids of Giza/ I see the same twinkle/ That guided Harriet to freedom."

Source: Mic/YouTube

Livingston also called on his fellow educators to teach students about inequality while at the same time, lifting them up.

"An injustice is telling them they are stars/ Without acknowledging night that surrounds them," he said. "Injustice is telling them education is the key/ While you continue to change the locks." 

But he ended a speech with a message of hope:  "I belong among the stars/ And so do you/ And so do they ... No, sky is not the limit/ It is only the beginning/ Lift off."

Donovan received a standing ovation — and deservedly so.

See the entire speech below (and read the full text here):

Source: YouTube

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Anna Swartz

Anna is a staff writer for Mic covering breaking news. She can be reached at aswartz@mic.com.

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