U.S. Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. challenged about 1,000 graduates of Bowie State University to guide the nation's youth to educational prosperity, saying today's children are in dire need.
He said the university should build on its legacy of training educators by encouraging graduates in every field to "better the life of one child," the focus of his commencement address at the USAirways Arena in Landover yesterday.
Holder cited the Thursday morning shootings at an Oregon high school, which left two students dead, as proof that some children are at risk.
"Saving our children and restoring our community is the key to our nation's survival," he said. Crime, poverty, drugs and violence are the greatest in areas where children have been abandoned, he said.
Children are "using intelligence to make a score on the street instead of making a grade in school," he said. "We must join forces to combat the social ills of our society. Unless we invest in our children today, we will spend too little of our limited capital on them tomorrow."
He told graduates to be involved in community service projects and mentoring programs for youths in their community.
The historically black university's reputation for educational training puts it at an advantage when sending graduates forth to influence the lives of schoolchildren, Holder said. He said graduates in other fields also could help the children in their community by setting up internship programs in their businesses and spending time with a child, or just listening.
"You have the power to turn despair into hope," he said. "You have the power to save our communities."
Graduates said they were honored to have Holder speak at the ceremony because he is the highest ranking African-American law enforcement officer in the nation's history.
While the graduates lauded Holder's message, they were more animated about a male student who was removed from the ceremony for disorderly conduct. He was expected to return but was taken from the arena by a family member instead.
At the end of the ceremony, the university received a $90,000 check from 19 members of the class of 1948, with a promise of more money to come.
* College of Notre Dame of Maryland: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author, urged graduates of the College of Notre Dame to "live richly in all three spheres -- work, play and love.
She addressed the 102-year-old college's largest class ever -- 357 students received bachelor's degrees and 158 received master's degrees.
She referred to her own "irrational passion for baseball" as an example of a way people could incorporate play into their everyday lives. She said the love of family and friends was the "greatest source of strength as human beings."
The outdoor ceremony was in the center of campus on North Charles Street in Baltimore.
* Frostburg State University: Associate Judge Martin P. Welch of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, a 1974 Frostburg alumnus, addressed 590 graduates in the Physical Education Center's Main Arena.
Welch, who is in charge of the city's juvenile courts, spoke at the morning commencement for the schools of Arts and Humanities and Natural and Social Services, and at the afternoon commencement for the schools of Business and Education. About 2,000 people attended each ceremony.
The school, near Cumberland in Western Maryland, is celebrating its centennial anniversary.
* Salisbury State University: Gov. Parris N. Glendening tied together a commitment to education, protection of the environment and defense of the disadvantaged in his address to the 1,038 graduates of Salisbury State University. He also commended the university for its continued efforts toward national eminence.
Attendance topped 6,000 during the commencement at Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury.
Snow Hill residents Charles and Martha Fulton were commended for starting a $200,000 endowment fund for Worcester County scholars. In 1989, the couple endowed the School of Liberal Arts, which was renamed in their honor.
* University of Baltimore: Tom Fenton, senior European news correspondent for CBS, quickly captured the attention of the university's 570 graduates when he opened his keynote address.
"You are being shortchanged by television news," Fenton said. "Tabloid news has replaced serious discussion of important issues and foreign news is becoming increasingly rare."
He urged graduates to work hard at staying informed.
After she received an honorary doctor of laws degree, former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley announced that she gave her public papers to the university and hoped that scholars would use them to study the economic impact that the port and maritime industry has on Baltimore and the state.
The ceremony was at the Lyric Theatre.