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Matthews to Class of 2012: 'Never, ever say 'no' to yourself'

Let me finish tonight with this.Over the weekend, I received an honorary degree from Howard University.

Let me finish tonight with this.

Over the weekend, I received an honorary degree from Howard University. It was extraordinary to be given this honor before thousands of students, parents, faculty, and friends at this historic American institution. As I said on Saturday from up on that grand stage, there is a glow in every graduate of this great university, a glow of pride in having attended an icon of African-American history, of American history.

Let me share what I said to the graduates because I gave it considerable thought. 

I said that the words we speak could be forgotten at these kinds of occasions. I wanted these students going out in the world, out to form their careers, to think of one picture: of this young man driving his car from Chicago where he lived and worked, out into the suburbs and rural areas of Illinois--just him alone in his car, a map of the state sitting on the passenger seat beside him.  

He had just been beaten for Congress on the South Side, just gotten the short end of the stick from incumbent Bobby Rush, and here he was: driving alone with guts and hope into places where people had never voted for an African-American candidate, never been asked to.

That is why Barack Obama was able to stride onto that stage at the National Democratic Convention in Boston in 2004, because he'd had the nerve to drive out of Chicago into the 'burbs and small rural towns and ask people to make a bet on him, to give him a chance. 

That was my message to the young people this weekend at Howard University: Get out there and ask people to invest in you, to make a bet on you. If they resist, make them say no to you. Make them do it. Never, ever say "no" to yourself. Get out there and go for the "yes," and don't ever say "no" to yourself.

I know it's easy for me to say that, but it doesn't stop it from being true. 

Being awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Howard University is one of the great honors of my life and I am so grateful to President Ribeau, the members of the Board of Trustees, including the Bernard family, and to the students of the class of 2012 for their wonderful reception.