“Hidden Figures” author encourages grads at UNCG CommencementBy Chanel Davis, Peacemaker Contributor / May 19, 2017
“Hidden Figures” author Margot Lee Shetterly challenged students to change the world they live in by mentoring others and fighting against injustice and inequality.
The best-selling author was the commencement speaker at the University of North Carolina -Greensboro graduation on Friday, May 12. The Class of 2017 turned their tassels as thousands of friends, family and faculty cheered them on inside the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.
“The world has always needed and has always found people who are willing to rise to the challenge of dismantling inequality and injustice, in ways that are both great and small, public and private,” she said. “When we need them most, the people with the brightest light seem to step out of the shadows lending both their heads and their hearts to the cause of ensuring that liberty and justice for all is more than just a paper pledge.”
“Hidden Figures” was made into a major motion picture and focuses on three trailblazing women Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, who joined the first human computer pool at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, the main research center for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), a precursor to NASA. The film garnered numerous nominations for Oscars and Golden Globe awards.
One of those human computers was UNCG alumna Virginia Tucker, who was recruited from UNCG (known as the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina) which graduated one of the largest cohorts of women who went on to work as human computers.Shetterly spoke of the two things that writing about NASA Engineer Mary Jackson has taught her in hopes that it would inspire students as they departed on their journey.
“The world may often be blind and different, or even hostile to your talent, your ambition, your feelings and your dream. If you want something, if you’re audacious enough to dream something, there’s a good chance that somewhere along the line that you’re going to have to fight for it. Her example shows us that if you have the imagination to dream big, you’re probably going to need the courage to make those big dreams come true,” Shetterly said. “She also showed us that the best way to have an impact in the world isn’t to achieve the highest individual accolades but it’s to use our talent to support the work of others.”
The university awarded approximately 2,623 degrees including 1,989 Baccalaureate degrees, 540 Master’s, 12 Specialist in Education degrees, and 82 Doctoral degrees.
Chancellor Franklin Gilliam, Jr. encouraged students in his address to think big, think bold and don’t be afraid to fail on the road to success.
“Whatever your journey, it’s your dedication, drive and determination that brings you to this day and you deserve all the accolades that will come your way. Know this – you are ready.” Gilliam said. “Savor the moment. Time goes by quickly.”
Joseph Graham, graduating president of the Student Government Association, told his peers to embrace the change that will follow them as they transition into their selected paths.
“On your way to turning your dreams into reality, you must know that the person you’ve become is not necessarily the person you’ll always be and the dreams you hold today may not be the same tomorrow,” Graham said. “Commencement is really a celebration of growth. It isn’t just the end of one’s educational chapter in your life and it doesn’t just mark the start of a brand-new journey. Today, and every day to come, is a stepping stone towards growing into your purpose.”