Shirley Chisholm 1984 Speech at Community College
Twelve years after her historic bid for president Shirley Chisholm, the country’s first black woman elected to Congress and the first woman to run for the presidency with a major political party served as guest speaker at Holyoke Community College’s 1984 Commencement. Thank you very, very much. I am very glad
to have the opportunity and, in a sense, an obligation to speak with the graduates because
you must remember that you are a very privileged ten percent of the American population who’s
had the opportunity to be educated beyond the high school level. And if this country
is really going to move in the direction of an amelioration of the human condition on
every level it is really going to be up to the people who are educated and enlightened.
Dear graduates, as you prepare to leave here today you are undoubtedly filled with emotions.
For it is a time of great happiness, for each of you has completed the task that you came
here for. It is also a day of anticipation as you embark upon a future that’s guided
by your own hopes and dreams. But it’s also marked with some uncertainty. I caution you,
graduates, that unless you have refined in your heart a willingness to apply what skills
you have learned which must be born out of a kind of social responsibility, then this
excellence of each of you has been wasted. And we will move ever closer to that final
catastrophe of which H. G. Wells told. And there’s a very old but nevertheless meaningful
adage which says, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”