Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder

By Max Sherman | Go to book overview

COMMENCEMENT SPEECH, HOWARD UNIVERSITY,
MAY II, 1974

Thank you very much. Thank you very much. To Dr. Cheek, or–– should I say “Little Caesar,” to the distinguished graduates here, I am quite pleased that you asked me to say some words on the occasion of this graduation. What I have said in the past has been called many things, but it's never been called the Convocation Oration, and so that's what we have today.

I suppose in addressing you graduates I should call you “presumptive graduates.” I note on the program that you are only presumed to have completed the requirements and that that presumption is inconclusive until you receive the paper, and I hope you receive it.

For those of you who feel I am going to give you an oration which is going to exhort you in the tradition of commencement addresses, suffice it to say that “you are hereby exhorted,” and that is the most I'll do on that. I suppose in light of most recent events I should say for those who came to Washington to this occasion, “welcome to the national exorcism.”

I am going to talk about civil liberties. Civil liberties—and if you write this subject, write civil liberties, colon, and then after that, write inoperative, and put a question mark; write inaudible, question mark; illegible, question mark; expletive deleted, question mark.

On the thirtieth day of April, the members of the Committee on the Judiciary received a document. That document purported to be the recorded conversations of the president of the United States. There are some omissions. One thousand six hundred

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