VP urges students to become national leaders

Sep 21, 2022

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at S.C. State on Sept. 20. (Panther photo by Jalen Langley)


U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris addressed concerns within the nation during her speech at South Carolina State University’s Fall Convocation on Sept. 20.

Speaking at Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center, the vice president urged students to lead by referring to times when young leaders were at the forefront of the civil rights cause. She gave examples such as John Lewis speaking at the March on Washington, Diane Nash protesting racial segregation, and S.C. State alumnus and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn protesting for civil rights.

“We thought long settled would be the freedom of voters to decide elections; long settled we thought would be the freedom of women to make decisions about their own future,” Harris said. “We thought we could take for granted what constitutes the truth, but these ideas now hang in the balance.”

“Your nation turns to you to move America forward, we need you,” she said. “We need your passion, your purpose, and your excellence.”

Harris said that the call for young leaders cannot be requested without acknowledging that some college students are consumed with financial struggles.

“Students, to help us build a better future for America, we must also make sure you have the resources you need to achieve academic success without the distraction of worrying about making ends meet,” Harris said.

The Biden-Harris administration is responsible for the largest increase in over a decade for Pell Grant money allotted to needy students. The $400 increase is per student per year. Harris said  75% of HBCU students rely on Pell Grants.

“We’ve got to do more,” Harris said. “We need your advocacy to continue to push forward on very substantial issues like that, because it makes a difference, and the details matter.”

The Biden-Harris administration implemented a student loan forgiveness program in which applicants can expect to be relieved of $10,000 or $20,000 in student debt. Those who make less than $125,000 a year can expect a $10,000 cancellation, while those receiving Pell Grants can expect $20,000 in loan forgiveness.

Borrowers receiving a federal student loan before July 1 are eligible for loan forgiveness. Current students, as well as former students that did not graduate, are encouraged to apply.

The SC State event took place on the 10th anniversary of National Voter Registration Day.

Also in attendance, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cordona applauded SC State for its efforts to get students registered to vote.

“For so many HBCUs, including this one, standing up for civil rights and voting rights is part of your DNA,” Cordona said.

Cordona said that registering to vote and making it easier to register to vote is the start to democracy.

“Democracy doesn’t happen, we, the people, make it happen,” Cordona said.

Cordona praised SC State on being ranked fourth nationally in degrees granted to African American math majors. He also recognized that SC State is home to the only nuclear engineering program in the state.

Cordona said HBCUs are a priority for the current administration, with nearly $6 million invested already. The amount surpasses the combined investments made by every previous administration, he said.

“Investing in HBCUs is investing in America,” Cordona said.

Also during the convocation, SC State President Alexander Conyers welcomed the class of 2026 with a challenge.

“I challenge you to always be loyal sons and daughters of SC State, and lastly I challenge you to always be true to the garnet and blue,” Conyers said.

Conyers recognized The Marching 101, SC State’s marching band, for being prepared for unscheduled performances throughout the program.

“You got your lesson from The Marching 101,” Conyers said. “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”

Harris showed appreciation to The Marching 101, as well.

“Let me thank The Marching 101; y’all are doing your thing,” she said.

The Marching 101 will perform for the halftime show during an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Sept. 25.

The vice president also stopped at Claflin University during her visit to Orangeburg.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at S.C. State on Sept. 20. (Panther photo by James Hall)



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