Steve Harvey Challenges Alabama State Graduates to ‘Be Great’

Last Updated on May 8, 2016

Harvey spoke before an overflow audience in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on May 7, 2016.
Photo Credit: Alabama State University

Story by Lois G. Russell
An overflow crowd filled ASU’s Dunn-Oliver Acadome for the University’s Spring Commencement Exercises, where world-famous entertainer and entrepreneur Steve Harvey delivered a stirring Commencement address.

Steve Harvey brought his own brand of wit and wisdom to the Spring Commencement Exercises at Alabama State University.

“I am not going to give this class a speech; I’m (going) to give you a lesson — just one more before you get out of here,” said Harvey. “I’m (going) to tell you the … truth about how to get from the back to the front and how to get from the bottom to the top.”

Harvey spoke before an overflow audience in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on May 7, 2016.

A total of 500 students — 413 undergraduates and 87 graduates — were candidates for degrees. Four graduates received their commissions as officers in the United States Air Force, and 47 student-athletes were awarded diplomas.

“This year, our graduates included 50 students who earned summa cum laude honors, the highest number ever at Alabama State University,” said President Gwendolyn E. Boyd.

Boyd opened the ceremony by holding a brief memorial for three faculty members, two students and an ASU employee who died during the 2025-16 academic year: Dr. Tracy Banks, associate professor of communications; Dr. Samuel Scott, professor of basic sciences in the Department of Occupational Therapy; Dr. Kenneth Deal, assistant professor of English; D’Angelo Brown, recruiter in the Office of Admissions & Recruitment; and students, Demetrius Sherod Bell of Greenville, Ala., and Dewayne Dowdell of Opelika, Ala.

The memorial included the draping of three chairs in the faculty section of the arena and the placement of three black wreaths on the Commencement stage. After a moment of silence, six chimes were rung in honor of “those who had been lost during the academic year.”Steve Harvey Honorary Doctorate

Boyd later introduced Harvey and brought the enthusiastic audience to its feet when she announced that he would receive the Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University, as approved by the University’s Board of Trustees on May 6.

During his address, Harvey said he wanted to challenge the graduates to be great.

“What you have done up until now has been a major accomplishment; I take my hat off to you,” said Harvey. “But what you've accomplished so far to this point is to become successful. I want you to go a little bit past successful. I want somebody in here to be great. There is a difference between success and greatness. You got your degree; that's successful. So far, this has been about yourself … but great people change other people's lives. Great people put other people's needs in front of theirs. Great people go back to their communities and change lives. We need somebody from ASU to go out of here and be great — to be a life changer.”

Harvey brought thunderous applause as well as laughter from the audience as he used stories from his own life to teach the lessons that he said each of the graduates would need after receiving their diplomas.

Harvey's lessons:

    #1. “Live your life so that your children’s grandchildren will know who you are.”

    #2. “Learn how to fail and win anyway.”

    #3. “Quit asking God to make your life easy.”

    #4. “Your greatness is in your imagination.”

Harvey said one of his greatest life lessons came on December 21, 2015, when he misidentified the winner of the Miss Universe Pageant.

“The day after, my name was Googled two billion times in 48 hours,” said Harvey. “I was on the front page of 64 countries’ newspapers. God had answered my prayers and increased my global persona and reputation, but it happened in a moment of adversity.”

Harvey said his adversity included global embarrassment and death threats. But he said because of the notoriety of the incident, he also received several “blessings,” including his first Super Bowl commercial.

“Behind every moment of adversity, (remember)…two things are going to happen: a lesson and a blessing. And you have to learn to wait on both of them,” Harvey added.

Source: Alabama State University

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