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January 15, 2013
Smith addresses FAMU graduates

On the 125th anniversary of its founding, Professor H.T. Smith gave the keynote address at the commencement ceremony of his undergraduate alma mater, Florida A&M University.

Speaking to a capacity crowd at FAMU’s Alfred Lawson, Jr., Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium, Professor Smith celebrated the more than 700 graduates who walked across the stage, describing for them his childhood education in Miami’s then-segregated public school system, and that when it came time for him to be the first person in his family to go to college, FAMU “opened the vaults of educational opportunity.”

His address, “There is Greatness Within You,” encouraged the graduates to believe in themselves as resources; to search for their passion and dedicate themselves to it; and to “do all the good they can in all the ways they can.”

“In life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great,” Smith said, quoting baseball legend Hank Aaron. “And when that time comes, only two things matter: Being prepared to seize the moment, and having the courage to take your best swing.”

To close, Professor Smith reminded the graduates to judge success “not by what we got but by what we gave,” and “to serve, nurture, and protect the least, the last, the lost, the looked over, and the left out” — in the words of Beyonce, to “leave the world a little better, just because we were here.”

Smith is the founding director of Florida International University’s Trial Advocacy Program.

[Revised: 11-18-2014]