Los Angeles, CA - Terrence James Roberts, recognized as one of the Little Rock Nine, addressed the Class of 2013 at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) on Saturday, June 15, during its 66th annual commencement.
Roberts, returning to his alma mater, spoke to thousands of CSULA graduates during the Commencement ceremony (excerpt from Roberts' speech):
". . . it was on this campus where I made the acquaintance of Ernest Becker whose book, 'The Birth and Death of Meaning,' was assigned by one of my sociology professors. Becker writes thusly: 'It is the task of culture to provide every single individual with the firm conviction that he, or she, is an object of primary value in a world of meaningful action.'
I cannot count the number of times I have reiterated that message. For me it is one of those axioms that represent universal truth. We are all charged with the responsibility of insuring that all of us count; that all of us have a chance to manifest the potential that we bring into the universe.
And just how is that done?
We start by being the very best we can be for in so doing we model for others what is possible.
Secondly, we make conscious choices to include others in our world, to build relationships across the lines of demarcation put in place by those whose awareness of the collective is limited.
And, while I had no intention of creating a step-wise process, there is much, indeed, to be said for such intentionality. Given the billions of options in this universe you will have little difficulty figuring out what next steps you need to take in the service creating a more perfect collective."
In 1957, Roberts, and eight others, demonstrated tremendous courage in a historically significant way in Little Rock, Arkansas. Known as, "The Little Rock Nine," they were the first African American students ever to attend classes at the segregated Little Rock Central High School.
The nine students endured harassment, mob violence and death threats at the high school, but their perseverance and the importance of their actions and determination marked a pivotal event during the era's growing civil rights movement.
Today, Roberts is CEO and principal consultant of his management-consulting firm, T. Roberts & Associates, in Pasadena. One belief of the firm reflects his lessons learned during those turbulent times, as well as Roberts' decades as a clinical psychologist, social worker, writer, and educator. It is his "firm conviction that the identifying label of learner is the most appropriate appellation for all human beings. Nobody knows very much, but by pooling our resources, we can expand our knowledge base and create new levels of understanding about issues of import."
Early in his career, Roberts was a child welfare worker and staff development specialist for Los Angeles county children's services. He was an instructor of social work at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he earned his doctorate. Roberts also earned his Bachelor of Arts in sociology from CSULA in 1967, and his master's degree in social welfare from the UCLA School of Social Welfare in 1970.
In 1999, Roberts and the other people of the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton.
For more information about CSULA's 2013 Commencement, go to www.calstatela.edu/commencement.
[About Cal State L.A.: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles' civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 230,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds—reflect the city's dynamic mix of populations. Six Colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to the Honors College for high-achieving students. Programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a forensic science program, housed in the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center. www.calstatela.edu.]