Skip to content

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. inspires Voorhees graduates


Message of hope, resilience, social responsibility

By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

In  a profound address at Voorhees University’s 127th Commencement, National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO and civil rights leader Dr. Benjamin Franklin Chavis Jr. delivered a powerful message of hope, resilience, and social responsibility to the graduating class of 2024.

The NNPA is the trade association of the 250 African American-owned newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America. David Miller, the publisher of Our Weekly newspaper in Los Angeles, serves on the board at Vorhees.

“One historical note: this year marks the 197 years of the Black Press since the first publication of Freedom’s Journal in March of 1827,” Chavis remarked. “All across the nation, we are reporting and highlighting the achievements and graduations of students who have triumphed at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).”

A class of 75 graduates, a host of faculty, and guests gathered at the Leonard E. Dawson Health and Human Resources Center, where Dr. Chavis emphasized the significance of commencement as a threshold to new beginnings.

“Voorhees University has come a mighty long way since the university was first founded back in 1897 by The Honorable Elizabeth Evelyn Wright,” said Dr. Chavis, who also received an honorary Doctorate of Environmental Justice from Vorhees following the ceremony. “We are all blessed to be gathered together here at this providential moment, and I pray that my remarks will encourage you to keep pressing forward.”

He told the graduates, “Today is a new beginning for you and your families. Today is a new beginning for you to seize the opportunities that are before you,” he remarked. “But it is also important to be ever aware of the world you are entering.”

Known for his tireless advocacy in civil rights, journalism, environmentalism, and academia, Dr. Chavis drew attention to ongoing challenges facing Black Americans, including attacks on voting rights and attempts to distort historical narratives.

“In some states, they are even banning books and attempting to engage in disinformation about our history, our culture, and our future in America and throughout the world,” Dr. Chavis cautioned.

Despite these challenges, Dr. Chavis expressed confidence in the resilience of the graduating class, whom he hailed as “the boldest, the most intelligent, the most gifted, and the most promising generation.” He encouraged them to maintain faith in themselves, their communities, and their ability to effect positive change.

“Faith matters because there will be times when you will be put to the test of life in your field of endeavor,” Dr. Chavis emphasized. “By having a strong faith, you will go forward to help make our world a better place for all people.”

Dr. Chavis shared a poetic expression he composed for the Class of 2024, celebrating their achievements, and encouraging them to embrace the future with courage and determination.

“As you embark on this new chapter of your lives, remember these words: ‘You will fly high, the future is bright, Class of 2024 shines in the light,’” Dr. Chavis concluded. “Long live the spirit and the legacy of the Class of 2024.”

Reflecting on his address, Dr. Chavis remarked, “Education is the key to liberation and freedom. Hold your head up without fear or distress and continue to make your family proud.”

Voorhees University President, Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, said the school was honored to have Dr. Chavis provide the 2024 graduation address. “We are honored to have Dr. Chavis as our commencement speaker,” said Dr. Hopkins. “His dedication to justice and his commitment to empowering future generations make him an exemplary role model for our graduates.”