This article is taken from a commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania by the president of the National Urban League :
Among the graduates today is my daughter. That is what makes today so special, so different. When a man's only child graduates from college, his mind runs along the course of time until it arrives at the beginnings: the joyful news that a child is on the way, the long months of anxious waiting, the shared experience of expectant parents.
I vividly remember looking through the window at my newborn baby in those early morning hours so long ago. And I remember my feeling of joyous excitement, waving frantically at that tiny bundle whose eyes were closed tightly, whose little body was exhausted from the effort of coming into this world.
Your parents will recall their similar experience when you were born. And they may also have felt what I felt at that time, amid the joy and excitement: a faint feeling of disquiet; a twinge of anxiety about the question marks in life that await our children.
That feeling never leaves parents. We watched our children grow, and we grew with them. We stayed up nights when they were sick. And we tended their cuts and bruises. We had good days; we had bad days. We made mistakes, and hurt them in ways grown-ups can never comprehend. But we also made them happy.
Sometimes our children were rebellious and wrong. Sometimes we parents were dogmatic and wrong. Sometimes we gave our children the comfort they needed, and then, as times passed, they gave us comfort in our bad moments. Sometimes that is when the turning point comes, when the dependency shifts. For so many years, I lent my daughter what strength I had, and last summer, in my time of trial and pain, it was she who brought strength to me; she, who brought me the power of love and will to help me pull through.
Finally, the day comes when our children are no longer children. That is why commencement day is so important. It is a rite of passage, a formal declaration of independence, a passing over into the larger world.
This day marks the cutting of the strings, the leaving of a protected environment for the larger world. It makrs a fundamental change in our relations with our children. For they are now our peers.
I have been talking to parents, to my fellow fathers and mothers of this graduaitng class. But I do want to say a few things to the graduates directly. The first is to apologize for the world into which you graduate. It is, in many ways, a mean world. But it is not much different from the world we entered. And in some ways it is a better world. When I returned home after my college graduation, it was to separate drinking fountains, the back of the bus and the denial of basic constitutional rights.
So the world has changed. And it changed because in the midst of that meanness, buried deep within the caves of injustice, there was the throbbing of the human spirit, the determination by millions of individuals that wrong is something to overcome, not to tolerate.
You now share that responsibility fully. You are adults. You are our peers. I ask you to give to your children a better world than we give to you. I ask you to temper your striving for material success, for the glitter of things, with the drive to overcome the injustice and misery that still stalk our nation and our planet.
To you, our children, our adult peers and partners in uncharted paths, we, your parents, are proud of you. We love you. And as you go down from this place, as you say farewell to your alma mater, be steadfast, be strong, be of good cheer.