At the end of the day, life ultimately comes down to “yes” or “no,” state Sen. Vincent Sheheen told honor students assembled at Claflin University Friday.
“It’s either ‘Yes we can’ or ‘No we can’t’,” Sheheen said. “I believe we need more yes’ in the room. You are our future. You are our hope.”
Sheheen was the keynote speaker for luncheon the 21st Annual Honors Conference of The National Association of African American Honors Programs (NAAAHP). Claflin co-hosted the event with neighboring South Carolina State University.
The NAAHP was founded in 1990 with the expressed goal to promote and inspire the continued empowerment of students, seek out collective funding opportunities and stimulate student community service and leadership.
Sheheen noted throughout American history people have proved naysayers wrong by making the impossible become concrete reality. Unfortunately, he said, that doubtful, negative mentality still prevails for some in the present. He called the group of students assembled for the NAAHP conference “the great rebuttal” to that brand of thinking.
Sheheen said community service and leadership are the primary aims of higher education. Quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he called upon the students to be “not searchers of consensus but molders of consensus.”
During the three-day conference which began Thursday, educators and students participated in a variety of activities including plenary sessions, a quiz bowl, debate tournament, talent show and model African Union. Approximately 19 Historically Black Colleges and Universities from across the nation participated in the conference.
Sheheen has served in the state Senate since 2004. Prior to that, he was a member of the state House of Representatives and was a prosecutor in Camden. He is a partner in the Camden-based law firm of Savage, Royall & Sheheen, LLP. In 2010, he won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and narrowly lost the general election to then state Rep. Nikki Haley.