Originally created 05/05/02

Civil rights legend challenges graduates



The Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery could be grandfather to most of Paine College's 2002 graduating class. His silver hair and slowing steps are confirmation.

Yet the man considered the dean of the civil rights movement effectively blended humor and wit to capture the attention of students, faculty and family members at Paine's baccalaureate services Saturday afternoon.

The Rev. Lowery challenged the 100 graduating students to "help America move to another mountain. We've been on the mountain of tokenism and materialism long enough and it's time to move higher," said the man who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

At the event, which is a religious send-off for graduates, the Rev. Lowery urged graduates to help America move away from income and class disparities.

"Long before September 11, we were on a course for disaster."

America should be ashamed to endorse a minimum wage concept, he added.

"Five or six dollars an hour? That's a crying shame. With the resources we have, we need livable wages," he said.

The speaker evoked applause when he credited Paine President Dr. Shirley A.R. Lewis and women from Atlanta for having penetrated long-established gender-based glass ceilings.

In Atlanta, the police chief, sheriff and fire chief are women, he noted.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next: Paine College will hold commencement exercises at 8 a.m. today on campus.