Remembering legacy while creating leadership skills was the primary message presented by keynote speaker Lieutenant General (LTG) Darrell K. Williams (U.S. Army retired) during Grambling State University’s Founder’s Day Convocation held Wednesday morning inside the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.
Williams, the president of Hampton University, has four decades of proven strategic leadership experience and a track record of successfully managing large, complex, domestic, international, academic, and executive sector organizations. Among numerous awards and honors, Williams is the recipient of the U.S. Defense Distinguished Service Medal, U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, U.S. Defense Superior Service Medal, and the U.S. Armed Forces Bronze Star Medal.
He also reminded GSU students that being part of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) gives them an edge created by many who came before them.
“Our HBCUs aren’t just educational institutions,” Dr. Williams said. “They’re sanctuaries of Black growth, resilience, and relentless determination. Today as we speak on building on their legacy, I carry with me the weight and the wisdom of our countless ancestors, educators and trailblazers whose sacrifices paved the way for our journey to be here today.
“As I think of my own journey and my path to Hampton as a student from 1979 to 1983, and then now standing before my Grambling sisters and brothers 40 years later in 2023 as a president of a university, I know firsthand that hopes and dreams can be launched at schools like this great institution. I also know that education remains the key to opening the doors to great opportunities.”
Dr. Williams urged those in the audience to remember the legacy of those who have come before them and to draw strength from the understanding that if Coach Eddie Robinson and so many others could thrive at GSU, then certainly current Grambling students can and will, too.
“My message is also that you are the current living history of an ongoing experiment that began a century ago,” Dr. Williams said. “And the greatest honor that you can bestow on Grambling is to take the investment in your future and go make her proud.”
“Don’t settle for a mere legacy of admiring other people’s posts on social media, go out and become someone to be admired. Live up to Grambling (State) University of being a place where everybody is somebody. Take advantage of Grambling’s ability to nurture your dream and then pursue that dream with urgency.”
Dr. Williams told the audience to not only hone the life skills they received through their education but to hone their leadership skills, too.
“Your future career in broadcast journalism, as an entrepreneur, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher in the classroom, scientist, astronaut, you name it, mandates that you learn to lead and learn how to accept responsibility and accountability for your actions,” Dr. Williams said. “The best way to acquire these skills while you’re here at Grambling is to get involved with what happens here on campus.”
“One of the main reasons for having the plethora of organizations and clubs on campus is to encourage student involvement and to facilitate the development of leadership skills. Student government, fraternities and sororities, the Honor Society, ROTC programs, athletics, cheerleading, and more are wonderful ways for you to broaden your leadership skill set here at Grambling. Your goal should not be to only participate, but to become a leader.”
Dr. Williams said leadership skills are crucial in today’s divided world.
“It’s clear from our local, national, and international news these days that our world is at a crossroads,” he said. “It desperately needs the essence of what Grambling brings — your resilience, your passion, your brilliance — because you students are indeed our future.”
“Grambling’s students are going to be a guiding light for the next generation. Our world needs the legacy of who and what Grambling brings. As I gaze into the sea of faces gathered here today, I see that spirit. I know that it is present. I see the dedication that has sustained this great institution for generations and will guide it for generations to come.”
Dr. Williams closed by urging the audience to be not only the best they can be today but to also grow into the best they can be in the future.
“Today’s Grambling State students walk pathways paved literally by giants who knew education was our ticket to freedom and our passport to a world that we cannot yet even imagine,” Dr. Williams said. “Education remains that ticket even today. But we must innovate without forgetting.”
“We must continue to honor our roots while leaping boldly into the future. My challenge to you students is to harness the boundless potential that is within these walls … You must continue pushing boundaries and not settling for what is. Embrace change while holding on to the values that have brought you to this momentous day — your Founder’s Day.”