Social activist Julian Bond delivers keynote address to graduating students

Social activist and this year’s Fall Convocation speaker Julian Bond addresses the college with his speech. One of the main focuses of Bond’s speech on
Thursday was race relations. (Photo courtesy of Nora Tidey.)

By Nora Tidey, Staff Writer

On Thursday, Nov. 13, hundreds of students and faculty gathered in the ballroom for Gettysburg College’s 31st annual Fall Convocation.

Initiated by a group of Gettysburg College students in 1984, Fall Convocation began in an effort to bring the campus together to engage in conversations regarding current issues.

Each year, a speaker that has dedicated his or her life to positive social change comes to campus for this occasion. This year’s Fall Convocation continued the tradition of engaging our campus in advocating for positive change in our nation and world.

President Janet Morgan Riggs gave an eloquent introduction to the ceremony, stating: “No matter where you work or live, you can be an advocate for social justice… And your work can start right here.”

Race relations were the primary focus of this year’s Fall Convocation which was centered around an address given by social activist Julian Bond dubbed, “50 Years: Stories from the Past, Action for the Future.”

Before Bond took to the stage, four Gettysburg College community partners were recognized for their service and dedication. Joann Christian Mants, Bob Mants (1943-2011), Alice Paris and George Paris were honored for their extensive Civil Rights work, as well as their work with the college in organizing immersion projects and opportunities for students to make positive social change.

They were welcomed to the stage with a well-deserved standing ovation to accept their awards. Awards were also given out to a faculty member and a student.

The Faculty Award for Community-Based Engagement was awarded to Dr. Christopher Fee for his exceptional integration of community-based work and academic work.

The Silent Leader Award was given in memory of Emily Silverstein ’11 to carry forward her dream of a more just and peaceful world. Erin O’Connor ’15 was the recipient of this year’s Silent Leader Award for her outstanding and sustained service to positive change.

Fee and O’Connor were nominated by the student body for their respective awards.

After the awards were given, Julian Bond delivered the Convocation Address.

Bond has dedicated his life to eradicating poverty, violence and segregation. A leader in the American Civil Rights Movement, Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and has led numerous silent, peaceful protests against racial segregation.

Besides being a social activist and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement, Bond is also a politician, professor and writer. He served six terms in the Georgia Senate and ten years in the Georgia House of Representatives. He served as a commentator for NBC’s Today Show and has had many of his poems and articles appear in magazines and newspapers.

Today, Bond is a visiting professor at American University and a professor in the history department at the University of Virginia.

Bond explained during his address that he was inspired as a teenager by the nine students, famously known as the ‘Little Rock Nine,’ who worked to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

At the young age of twenty years old, Bond experienced his first arrest after leading a group of his friends to a racially segregated cafeteria in a peaceful protest.

Bond emphasized throughout his speech that it has only been a mere 50 years since the prohibition of discrimination based on race and that constantly moving activism in America is needed to continue this.

He declared, “Jim Crow may be dead, but racism is alive and well…we have to fight discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head.”

Student initiative was another key point established during Bond’s speech, and he even had a designated time later in the day for students to come and discuss with him how they can make positive changes.

The college’s Chief Diversity Officer, Jeanne Arnold, delivered the concluding remarks and encouraged students to look for the chance to test and prove themselves through taking initiatives on campus for positive social change.

This year’s Fall Convocation was sponsored by the Center for Public Service and students are encouraged to visit to learn about opportunities to get involved.

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Author: Isabel Gibson Penrose

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