County Executive Remarks
Howard University 146th Convocation
September 27, 2013
“When from thee we’ve gone away, May we strive for thee each day, As we sail life’s rugged sea, O Howard, we’ll sing of thee…”
That’s probably my favorite stanza of the Howard Alma Mater, because it describes how I feel about Howard University. It is the place that equipped me with knowledge, self-awareness and a sense of pride in my heritage and myself. Howard taught me how to handle life’s rugged seas. It is a place like no other. The place that is beloved and admired by so many.
To President Sidney Ribeau, first lady, Dr. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau, Chairperson A. Barry Rand, Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, honored guests, and Howard students:
I bring you greetings on behalf of the nearly 900,000 people of the greatest county in the United States of America. A county that consists of 500 square miles and a diverse population that is known as the wealthiest majority African- American county in the U.S.
A County that is home to the Howard University Research Campus, FedEx Field, University of Maryland, Bowie State University, National Harbor, Six Flags and Air Force One.
Today, I am overcome with emotion, because I never imagined that I would be standing before the Howard community to give the Convocation address.
An impressive list of speakers have stood in this place. People such as L. Douglas Wilder, John Lewis, Duval Patrick, Alexis M. Herman and President Barack Obama. I am truly honored to follow in their footsteps.
I want to acknowledge my mother, who is here today; along with my father, who is no longer with us.
I will never forget the day I received my letter of acceptance from Howard University. The funny thing is, after my father read the letter, he called the Admission office to make sure that there was not a mistake. He wanted to confirm that I had actually been accepted to Howard.
What’s even funnier is that I didn’t believe it either.
He was very proud that day once he confirmed it, and I know he would be beaming if he were sitting here today.
My father, an enlisted military man, who fought in Vietnam, knew about the greatness of Howard University. He was aware of the incredible people that attended and taught at Howard. It was my father who talked to me about Howard, and it was my father’s words that inspired me to go into public service.
Mom, I want to thank you and dad for supporting my dreams and aspiration all these years and inspiring me.
I also want to acknowledge the rest of my family that is here today.
My beautiful daughters Quinci and Aja, who are both college students- not here at Howard, but maybe we can get them here for grad school; my son Rushern the IV, an accomplished artist who teaches at the University of Maryland and is running for the Maryland House of Delegates; my oldest brother Victor Baker; and a man who is kind, strong and wise- my father-in-law Sgt. Maj. Retired, Alphonso Beverly.
Last but not least the love of my life: a Howard grad; and a member of the Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.; my wife; and the first lady of Prince George’s County, Christa Lynn Beverly.
My family is an essential part of my life. They support me and comfort me. I could not do what I do without their love and support.
I would also like to thank the people of Prince George’s County.
I stand here today addressing you, because I am a two-time graduate of Howard University and because I am the County Executive of Prince George’s County. I am humbled by the trust and faith that the people of Prince George’s County have place in me. I work hard each and every day to live up to the honor they bestowed upon me.
Like my family, and the people I represent, this university has been a blessing in my life. The people I met, the instructors I learned from and the experiences I gained, prepared me to take on the world.
My classmates, some who are here today, have become lifelong friends and have always supported me. And when you think about it, that’s what makes Howard such a unique place.
As I was preparing my remarks for today, I reflected on the many people I have encountered along my journey. It is amazing how far reaching my Howard connections are. From my wife to numerous people in my administration, Howard is heavily woven into the fabric of my life. It is my quilt that protects and comforts me.
My friends from my student government, my fraternity brothers, (and by the way, I’m an Omega), the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta, former professors, and college friends, are all pieces of that quilt. And it is that quilt of friendships and experiences that have absolutely changed my life.
Frankly, I can’t imagine what my life would have been had I not attended Howard University. That’s why Convocation has always been special to me. It is my opportunity to reconnect with the Howard community- to retool and get reenergized.
You see, I was one of those students who actually enjoyed attending Convocation each year. I didn’t hang out on the yard or go to the Punch Out. Convocation has always signaled a new beginning. It is our ceremonial reminder of how special Howard is.
It should be our call to action, our reminder that we must rededicate ourselves to our Alma Mater.
Howard University is a vanguard for change, leadership, progressive thinking and social justice.
It should remind us of Howard’s rich legacy and history. That it is our responsibility to uphold and protect that heritage with all our might. We need these reminders of Howard’s greatness because it helps to renew our commitment to the university. A commitment that will endure despite what we may hear or read in the press.
We must support the university financially and with other resources.So many of us have the wherewithal to do so much more, but we seem to forget that Howard still needs us.
We must continue to water this tree of knowledge so that its branches grow and extend connecting people and cultures throughout the world. We must give back because Howard has given us all so much. We must give back because every great university has strong and supportive alumni.
Convocation is our moment to celebrate what we share as a Howard community. Today, we come together to celebrate 146 years of creating great leaders- people who attended or taught at the university, people who have that unique…Howard Swagger. It is a swagger of intellect and confidence. It is a swagger you can see across the room.
How many times have you been out at an event or meeting saw someone that made you think, “Hmm, I bet she went to Howard,” that’s the swagger I’m talking about.
It’s the swagger of: Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed; Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris; County Executive Ike Leggett; Former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt. It is a swagger we inherited from leaders like Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, the first African American President of Howard University.
Johnson raised millions of dollars for new buildings and to upgrade all of Howard’s schools and colleges. During his time, Howard had a collection of some of the greatest scholars to be found anywhere in the world. Notable scholars such as Alain Locke, Ralph Bunche, Charles Drew, Ernest E. Just, E. Franklin Fraser, Percy Julian, and Sterling Brown. And while he was president, enrollment jumped from 2,000 to 10,000. During his 30 plus years as president, Johnson laid the foundation for the modern Howard that we know today. He is an example of what Howard stood for then, and what it stands for now- excellence.
It is Howard excellence that continues to attract some of the best young minds from around the world to this university. When it was time to go to college, I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to go. I didn’t know much about college and I knew nothing about Howard University. I’d decided I was going to attend the University of Hawaii because of the weather and it was a beautiful place.
I applied to The University of Massachusetts because my dad made me. Honestly, Howard was not on my radar screen. I learned about Howard from my best friend. He had applied to Howard and encouraged me to check it out. He gave me a brochure that had great information about distinguished alumni, wonderful academic programs, sports and extracurricular activities. It was really impressive but that’s not what sold me.
It was a photo of an attractive woman on the brochure.
After seeing that photo, I decided that if I was going to college I might as well be in an environment with women that look like the one on the brochure.
Once I arrived at Howard, I realized that there was far more to this place than a woman on the brochure. Almost instantly, I could see that I was surrounded by a collection of some of America’s top students from all over the country and around the world. There were students from families that were celebrating the first family member to attend college, students who were Howard legacies, students who needed financial aid, and students who didn’t.
Howard exposed me to something I had never seen before. A collection of young African-American students that came to school believing they could change the world. It was liberating. It was life changing. It was and is…the Howard experience.
We were fortunate to learn from esteemed professors like Mary Francis Berry, Frank Snowden, Alvin Thornton, and Oliver Taylor who shared their knowledge and wisdom. But, it was when I met and heard giants like Chancellor Williams, Rayford Logan and Michael Winston, that I switched my major from political science to history.
It was here that I found people who thought like me, had aspirations like me, and who wanted to make a difference and change the world like me.
Howard challenged us and we challenged each other. Those challenges caused us to look at the world and its problems differently, because we marched to a different beat at Howard University. A beat that guides my administration and me as we serve the people of Prince George’s County.
I believe that Prince George’s County has the most Howard graduates per capita than any other county in the U.S. So when I became County Executive, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to find talented people to help me carry out my vision for the county: my Chief Administrative Officer, two Deputy Chief Administrative Officers, Communication Director, Director of the Health Department, Director of Minority Business, Director and Deputy Director of Finance, Executive Director of Ethics and Accountability and members of my Government Affairs team.
The point is that Howard is well represented in my administration.
I selected these people to help me because I knew that Howard prepared them for the challenge and that they could help me think differently. Together we have developed bold transformational policies and programs that are moving Prince George’s County forward.
In less than four years, we have made significant progress in public safety, healthcare, economic development and education.
We reduced overall crime to its lowest point in over 30 years. We created a $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund-the largest of its type in the state.
We have over $4 Billion in potential new development projects, including a high-end destination resort casino and a state-of-the-art Regional Medical Center. We created the “Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative” that focuses on six underserved neighborhoods.
Our most significant achievement thus far has been the restructuring of our school governance so that our children get the best education possible. We made this change because the education of our children is essential to our success as a county.
More importantly, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure the children of Prince George’s County reached their full potential. We are making today matter in Prince George’s County and I challenge Howard University alumni, students, faculty and staff to adopt this attitude.
We cannot rest on our laurels or stand on the foundation of the hard work and achievements of those who came before us. We must roll up our sleeves and get involved. Howard University has been, and will continue to be, a beacon of light that sets the example for the nation and the world.
Today, we must renew our commitment to Howard.
We must stand united.
And we must stand strong.
God bless you all and God bless Howard University.