SU spring commencement speaker reflects on Mandela’s 2000 message

South African Ambassador to the United States Mninwa J. Mahlangu delivered the commencement address for the Southern University Baton Rouge Spring 2017 commencement exercises, Friday, May 12, in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Nearly 700 candidates received degrees.

Inclement weather in the area delayed the start of commencement for approximately 15 minutes and added to already heavy traffic conditions leading into the campus.

“Traffic flow on the campus was affected by the severe weather that came through North Baton Rouge just as families and friends were arriving for our spring commencement at SU. We encouraged guests and visitors to arrive early to avoid major traffic build up, however today’s weather created a more challenging situation for traffic and parking for our spring commencement,” said SU System President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton.

Moving forward the President-Chancellor will work with University Police Traffic and Parking and campus leaders to introduce changes and plans to ease traffic flow before and after commencement to provide a more convenient experience for the graduates and their families, and other guests.

Ambassador Mahlangu’s message to the graduating class and near-capacity audience echoed some of the late Nelson Mandela’s words when he visited the campus in 2000.

“His [Mandela’s] words are enduring, if not timeless, as of course is his legacy,” said Ambassador Mahlangu.

“President Mandela spoke with conviction that day as he had many times before, of the importance of education. Part of his legacy, and it is a tremendous legacy, is a legacy of academic values.”

The commencement speaker shared that Mr. Mandela’s education was interrupted by his expulsion from college for having joined in a student protest and he received his bachelor’s degree when he was 25 years old.

 He said the former South African President was a firm believer in the power of education.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. And so I?commend you today for having engaged in this revolutionary act, and congratulate you, as you commence to separate yourselves from your contemporaries,” the ambassador told the spring candidates for graduation.

“Today’s commencement marks the end of a chapter in your lives. But commencement does not mean ‘the ending.’ Commencement means ‘the beginning’ -- today is the beginning of a new chapter in your lives.

Ambassador Mahlangu was appointed in October 2014 by the President of South Africa to serve as the South African Ambassador to the U.S. based in Washington, DC. He last visited Southern University, November 19, 2015.

The South African diplomat also participated in a University ceremony to rededicate a program in honor of Mandela, Thursday, May 11. When then President of South Africa Mandela visited the SU campus, he was honored at an event dedicating the Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs after him. A few months ago, the School was upgraded to the College of Government and Social Sciences, and it is the only college of government in the state and the region.

The spring 2017 chief student marshal was Naja I. Webb, with a cumulative grade point average of 3.912. She is a psychology major from Baton Rouge.

Webb graduated summa cum laude from Zachary High School in May 2014.  She was on the Dean’s List every semester while at SU and was presented the “Top Student of the Year” award [psychology] for the Fall 2016/Spring 2017.

The SUBR spring class included 477 undergraduate degree candidates and 191 candidates for graduate degrees. The class has 102 honor graduates (five summa cum laude, six magna cum laude, 15 cum laude, and 76 honorable mention).

The spring graduates represent 48 Louisiana parishes, 15 states and territories, and eight countries. The oldest candidate is 73 and the youngest is 21.

The graduate degree candidates include students who represent the first graduates of the SU Executive Masters of Science in Criminal Justice – Online Degree program.

The Southern University School of Nursing, recently was honored as the “2017 Nursing School of the Year, Graduate Degree Programs” by the Louisiana Nurses Foundation, graduated its largest nursing class in the history of program: 134 students.

The University awarded posthumous undergraduate degrees to former students Denver A. Smith and Leonard Douglas Brown who were killed in November of 1972 during a campus demonstration.

Honorary doctor of humane letters degrees were awarded to Ambassador Mahlangu and SU alumna Dolly Deselle Adams, a former national president of The Links, Incorporated, during the annual spring graduation exercises.

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