By Natasha L. Foreman
Sunday I had the honor and privilege to not only attend the 124th Commencement of Spelman College at the Georgia International Convention Center, but an hour before the commencement I was given an opportunity of a lifetime to meet, speak with, hug, and take pictures with our country’s First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama in a private room with a small, select group of people which included Atlanta’s Mayor, Kasim Reed, Elder Bernice King (Spelman graduate class of 1984), her assistant (and right hand) Ms. De’Leice Drane, a few members of the senate, congress, and state legislature; several community leaders, and philanthropist Derrick Watkins also known as ‘Fonzworth Bentley’ and his incredible wife, actress Faune Chambers (who I always enjoy chatting with when I see her). In total I would say it was about 20 of us who took part in this special moment.
I look forward to seeing the White House pictures (taken by their photographer), since they asked that we refrained from taking pictures so that the flashing cameras wouldn’t serve as a distraction to those having their ‘moment’ with the First Lady.
Mrs. Obama is beyond amazing and her presence is beautifully overwhelming and refreshing as her tall stature, elegant grace, obvious brilliance, alluring beauty, warm eyes, and confident voice only makes her hand shake and sincere hug especially touching and worthwhile. I was surprised I got to speak with her as long as I did and I am honored for the opportunity, and thankful to those individuals both in and connected to the White House who made that day and that moment possible for me.
After meeting the First Lady our group was escorted to our seats to witness the commencement which was touching, and very heartfelt as we listened to the Reverend Dr. Lisa D. Rhodes deliver an amen-filled invocation, followed by the spiritual sounds of soloist Daria Burgess (Spelman class of 2011) and the Spelman College Glee Club sing “Wade in the Water”.
Soloists from the 2011 graduating class had everyone clapping to “A Choice to Change the World”.
To hear the story and history of Spelman College as shared by the First Lady during her commencement address was like a combination of listening to a favorite teacher reading a book during story time and the moving, electrifying take charge-and-make-something-happen conversation with a trusted mentor. Mrs. Obama shared how Spelman got its start (with two determined African American women and a mere 11 female students), how they respectfully declined the offer to merge with the now Morehouse College, and overcame the odds (and the naysayers) as they grew from 11 students in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church 1881 to now thousands, 130 years later.
It was also very exciting to see sisters Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad receive their honorary doctorate degrees in Fine Arts. Debbie Allen was clearly excited as she danced and trotted during the processional, and beamed brightly as she waited patiently for Spelman’s President, Dr. Beverly Tatum to confer her degree. When called, Phylicia Rashad stood on stage waiting to be hooded and her poise and demeanor made you feel as though you too were receiving this honored degree. As the First Lady’s name was called by Dr. Tatum to receive her honorary doctor of law degree, the convention center became extremely loud inside as we rose to our feet clapping, and yes some people were screaming and whistling loudly. I got so caught up in the moment during the commencement ceremony that I missed some great shots (especially of Ms. Allen and Ms. Rashad) but captured certain moments on video that I will upload to my “NatashaForeman” YouTube channel. The lighting was not the best inside the convention center so my iPhone 4 did not get to ‘show out’ and display its stellar capabilities, so the resolution is not the best on the pictures I have decided to share in this post… please accept my apologies.
It was especially nice to see Teach for America Founder and CEO, Wendy Kopp receive the Board of Trustees Community Service Award. I have the utmost respect for Ms. Kopp and her organization, together they are helping bridge the educational gap affecting our children nationwide. In 2006 my dear friend John Hope Bryant also received this national award, so I’m sure he did not let the day go by before congratulating his friend and colleague Wendy Kopp on this great honor.
This day was exceptional. It was beautiful, and it was definitely a blessing to take part in such a historic moment. Thank you again to each person who made this day possible for me. You know who you are, and I hope that you know you are truly appreciated!
Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved. natashaforeman.com