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									            New Student Orientation – Opening Assembly


                    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

                             10:30 a.m.

            Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel




     On behalf of the 43 members of our board of trustees, a

distinguished faculty of 165 men and women, a tireless staff of

more than 400 people, and more than 15,000 living graduates, I

welcome each member of the class of 2014—and your families—

to Morehouse College. Allow me to also acknowledge that

yesterday was a wonderful first day and that, throughout the day, I

received on behalf of the entire Morehouse family your abundant

compliments and praise. We recognize, however, that there were a

few departures from our usual standards of excellence. I accept
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responsibility for them. For each of those departures, I ask that

you accept my apology and, more important, my pledge to see that

they are corrected and never repeated.

     Seeing the men of 2014 arrive with parents and families

transports me 38 years back in time. I arrived from Chicago by

Greyhound bus with my mother. My father didn’t make the 18-

hour trip, preferring to work so that he could pay for tuition, then

at the exorbitant rate of $3,000 per year.

     The day of registration, my mother and I took a taxi from

Paschal’s Hotel and, when I saw the long line of brothers

attempting to register at Graves Hall, I told Mom to leave me on

Fair Street a short distance from the gate so no one would see her

escort me to the door. I wore a shirt and tie and had a snazzy new

Samsonite briefcase given by the proud members of my local

church. I felt that I was “Mr. Morehouse,” all set to dive into the

mystique.

     Years later, an uncle told me that my mother called him in

tears as she returned home alone. She had just left her baby at
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Morehouse. My uncle interrupted her and said, “Dorothy, listen to

what you just said. You left him at Morehouse College. Some

mothers are crying today because they have left their sons in jail.

And some have left their sons in a morgue. But you have left a son

at Morehouse.” He told me that those words made all the

difference, and her tears of grief immediately transformed to joy

and pride.

     So this is a word to parents. Leave your sons, grandsons and

young men at Morehouse and be proud of what you have done.

Although it may be difficult and painful to separate, do it for his

sake. You’re leaving him in good hands. He will mature into a

Morehouse man, and we’ll all be the better.

     As we begin my fourth year as president, my “senior” year, I

want to share a few observations that I think will make the

transition from high school to life at one of the nation’s “most

grueling colleges” easier and more seamless. And I firmly believe

that, if adhered to, these suggestions—the seven habits of highly

successful men of Morehouse, to paraphrase leadership guru Dr.
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Stephen Covey—will serve you well during the next four years and

beyond.

     1) Seize responsibility for your education. Attend every

          class that you are able to attend.

Contrary to what some might say, your consistent attendance is

important—even if you already understand the material.

Classroom discussion provides the immediate, dynamic, highly

interactive exchanges and insight to which you would not

otherwise be exposed.

     Complete every assignment and keep every appointment. If

you must change or cancel an appointment, be responsible and

respectful enough to alert others well in advance instead of wasting

their time and hurting your reputation. It will show that you are

serious about learning and that you are dependable. Be a man of

your word. And remember the Morehouse adage: “To be early is to

be on time; to be on time is late; and to be late is unacceptable.”

     2) Take good notes. They will be of paramount importance
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when you’re studying for tests, particularly midterms and finals—

when the material may no longer be so fresh in your memory.

      Make an effort to meet with your professors outside of the

classroom. Not even a professor’s syllabus can take the place of

personal interaction when it comes to understanding his or her

expectations.

      And be an academic entrepreneur; that is, manage your own

business. Tell your parents, “Mom, Dad, I know you’re used to

doing things for me, but I’ve got this!”

      3) Embrace learning and discovery as a new and exciting

adventure. In an earlier speech (which you can find online)

inspired by the Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse, I referred to

college as an intellectual game and to all the men of Morehouse as

“masters of the game.” Regard every article or book you read as

the opening of a conversation with a new friend, one that should

last the rest of your life.

      H.G. Wells had it right when he observed, “More powerful

than a standing army is an idea whose time has come.” Make your
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learning come alive. If you find the material or the professor or

your classmates insufficiently inspired, you bring the inspiration,

the creative new point of view, and the well-crafted question that

explodes like a chemical reaction.

     At Morehouse, it’s okay to be smart! In fact, the smart guys

run this show. The cool nerds have the juice and are the most

charismatic and interesting brothers on the block. But one of the

things I loved about Morehouse in my student years was that

although we competed intellectually, we never stooped to being

mean-spirited towards our vanquished foes. We always left their

dignity intact and extended a helping hand to lift the other brother.

     4) Select your peer group wisely. An African proverb

declares, “If you want to travel quickly, go alone. But if you want

to travel far, go with others.” Travel only with those who have

chosen a lofty goal as their destination. It is sometimes unfair, but

you are judged by the company you keep. And you don’t need the

added burden of a friend holding you back from your dreams.
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     Also, in case you haven’t already noticed, there are plenty of

attractive young women in the AU Center. Choose one who is

serious and mature. Be responsible and be respectful of others.

And if things are not working out, don’t play her. Be honest,

dissolve the relationship in a compassionate way and move on.

     Be respectful of your brothers when you invite a friend to our

campus or your residence hall. We have had a few instances of

visitors who were unaware of our expectations, came to visit,

behaved badly, and then departed never to be seen again. But they

damaged Morehouse, and your behavior enabled that.

     5) Request help if you need it. Those who seek help do

exceedingly well. Those who wait until they are already in

profound academic jeopardy before seeking assistance always

regret it. Some brothers think it is not manly to ask for help. On

the contrary, it is unwise and childish to find yourself in trouble

and not speak up. You are paying the faculty to help you, so ask

for help.
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     You are now part of a brotherhood. We are here to help you.

Just ask.

     6) Avoid people and situations that could threaten your

success or safety. Do not venture out alone into unknown

territory, especially at night. Nothing good happens after midnight

around here. Your intellect alone cannot protect you from the

elements that others bring into our community.

     Do not use illegal drugs. And certainly, do not sell them. Not

only will they impair your mind, but they will ruin your life. If you

are under the legal age, do not drink alcohol and, by all means, no

one should drink or smoke and drive.

     Real men of Morehouse are incapable of abusing and

disrespecting women physically or verbally. If she says, “No,” that

means no. And if you disrespect her, I will take a personal interest

in seeing that you move quickly through our campus judicial

process.

     We do not hurt our fellow students in any way. Curtail the

impulse to be violent, mean, or intolerant.
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     Do not cheat. If you quote another author, you must cite that

author.

     Practice decorum on the social networks: Facebook, Twitter,

etc. Do not repeat malicious words or gossip about others. Be a

leader and a man of integrity who puts the fire out instead of

fanning the flames for your personal enjoyment.

     As important as your presence is to the Morehouse

community, if you break the rules and erode the community, you

will have proved that we made a mistake in admitting you, and you

will not be here for long.

     7) Cherish the privilege of attending college. Realize that

only 27% of all Americans have earned a college degree. The vast

majority of Americans have not done what you are preparing to do:

finish college. And only 18% of black people in this country have

completed college degrees. So being here is a privilege that you

should cherish. Make those who nurtured you and sacrificed so

that you could be here proud of your behavior, as well as your

future accomplishments.
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      Last night, you heard of the five characteristics that I wish to

hold above your heads, along with the crown you will someday

wear. Affectionately known as the “five wells,” they express the

substance and style of the men who will help to lead a renaissance

in our communities.

     Renaissance means rebirth. And in most of our communities,

there is a need for rebirth, another chance. But communities need

leaders who can catalyze and guide the process. They need

Renaissance Men.

  • Become well-read. Read physics and philosophy; read

     finance and poetry. Then, put these disciplines into

     innovative and unprecedented dialogue and dialectical

     tension.

  • Second, become well-spoken. Have something valuable to

     say, and say it well. Express yourselves with precision,

     grace, and style, both orally and in writing. You’ve come

     here to learn to put complex emotions and ideas into elegant
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  words. Develop what Aristotle called “the art of rhetoric.”

  Remember the three Bs: be good, be brief, and be seated.

• Third, become well-traveled. Plan now to voyage to distant

  lands. Experience the “decentering” that comes from leaving

  home and looking back to assess and understand one’s

  origins. We are blessed to have many international students

  who know this and can assist the rest of us. My junior year

  was spent in England, and I became a better Morehouse Man

  because of it.

        Take advantage of the many opportunities Morehouse

  offers its students to travel and study abroad. Travel to the

  edges of the world and take the Morehouse banner with you.

  Get out of your parent’s house and out of Morehouse to see

  the world.

• Fourth, become well-dressed. Make the right first

  impression. Whether you like it not, people see you coming

  down the street or corridor before they meet you and hear

  your brilliant and charming conversation. There is a time and
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  a place for every cultural wardrobe. Well dressed doesn’t

  mean shirts, ties, and suits only. We celebrate diversity, but

  we expect professionalism, neatness, and dignity in all things.

       Perhaps some of you have seen the September 2010

  “Back to College” issue of Ebony. In a nice piece on

  Morehouse, the magazine affirms our tradition of leadership

  development and high academic expectations. But it dwells

  excessively on the dress code.

       Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time

  explaining and defending our appropriate attire code. As my

  chief of staff Fran Calhoun suggests, it’s time to change the

  conversation. I do not wish to talk further about dress codes.

  The topic is uninspiring when compared to the other four

  wells. I’d rather talk about Dunbar and DuBois, Aristotle

  and Shakespeare. So let’s spend the rest of the year focused

  on becoming well read, spoken, traveled, and balanced.

• Finally, become well-balanced. Morehouse teaches us to

  possess healthy minds that reside within healthy bodies
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     governed by healthy values. Remember that phrase: healthy

     minds inside healthy bodies governed by healthy values.

     This affirms the importance of a well-rounded existence built

     upon the wise allocation of time and effort. To everything

     there is a season and a time for every purpose under the sun.

     A time for relaxation and a time (a lot of time) for study; a

     time for sports and recreation and a time for worship and

     spiritual nourishment. Dr. DuBois said that university should

     be a place for “hard work and hard play.”

     Lead by your example of integrity, humility, and

goodness. We are a college that values leadership, so let your

leading begin here. When others are making bad decisions, have

the courage to say no and to move in another direction. Do not

succumb to the immoral and mindless pressures expressed in the

phrase, “Don’t snitch.” That’s the same message that the Ku Klux

Klan promoted when they wore sheets over their heads to hide

their identities and threatened those who knew them to keep quiet.
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Do not allow crime and bad behavior to invade Morehouse while

you sit timidly on the sideline of history.

      Rabbi Hillel, a 1st century Jewish contemporary of Jesus of

Nazareth said, “The world is equally balanced between good and

evil, and your next act will tip the scales.”

      Sometimes, one man can make a difference. One man

stood in front of a line of Chinese military tanks in Tiananmen

Square on June 5, 1989, and stopped them temporarily. He also

stopped our hearts and inspired our courage.

      One man, a Morehouse man, sat alone in a Birmingham jail

cell and, in his idle hours, began to compose a moral treatise

unparalleled in modern moral philosophy and civil disobedience.

And I might add, he used the talents he honed in English, history,

sociology, and religion classes right on this campus to spur a

nation toward change.

      You, too, should lead us toward that which is good and right

and encourage your fellow students to follow your lead. One man

can make a difference.
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     I close by asking you to help me.

     Each year, I remind the men of Morehouse that we are called

to serve. We are Morehouse and we are here to serve the least

advantaged members of the community. But what if they do not

know who we are and why we exist? We must tell them. So, men

of Morehouse, please stand.

     When I declare the word, “Morehouse,” you will respond

with five simple words: “Your ‘House, at your service.”

     When you say this, I want you to roar so loud that an African

lion in the Serengeti will pause because he has heard the roar of

crouching tigers on this red hill.

     Morehouse!

     Your ’House, at your service!

								
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