Actor Danny Glover paid tribute to his mother Sunday during commencement ceremonies at Paine College, recalling her days at the institution and challenging graduates to become good citizens, as he said she was.
Mr. Glover, best known for his recurring role in the Lethal Weapon movies, spoke under cloudy skies in the center of campus as thousands gathered to celebrate the 120th commencement at the historically black college. His mother, Carrie Hunley Glover, was born in Louisville, Ga., and graduated from Paine in 1942.
"Two of my grandparents' proudest moments were when my mother was accepted as a student here and when she graduated from here," he told graduates. "Like your parents, my grandparents worked very hard to get my mother through college. My grandmother was a midwife, who delivered everything from babies to eggs to get that girl through college."
Mr. Glover used humor and history in his 30-minute address, reminding graduates that even those on the slave ships to America remained hopeful for better times.
"You are a combination of many of those hopes," he said. "So we can't afford to be cynical. ... In fact, it demands a responsibility of citizenship (and) requires that we be involved. And that is certainly one of the many things I have learned of my mother."
In 1990, Mr. Glover memorialized his mother by donating $100,000 for an endowment in her name at Paine. The college had awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Mr. Glover's return trip to the campus Sunday was not an easy one. His flight from Jackson, Miss., was canceled, so he drove to Atlanta, where college officials picked him up. He arrived in Augusta at 4 a.m., four hours before commencement.
"It took some effort to get here, and yet I knew that if I walked in here, I would be among friends, and in some way, I would be with my mother as well," he said.
On Sunday, Mr. Glover shook the hand of every graduate who marched, accepting spontaneous hugs from a few. He chuckled as 54-year-old graduate Emily Rae Galloway walked on stage to the cheers of her daughter.
"That's my mother!" Brandi Galloway yelled.
She said her mother was graduating after attending college for 10 years. During that time, Ms. Galloway, 20, made her own dinner and cleaned house so her mother could study.
"It took a long time, but she made it," Ms. Galloway said, adding that her mother plans to become a special education teacher at Glenn Hills High School.
Camera flashes and screams were common at Sunday's ceremonies, where 100 students graduated and Lenaldo Corley gave his last speech as senior class president.
"We must boldly face a world with fallen twin towers, an economic recession and a crisis in the Middle East, and still dream and say 'I can,"' Mr. Corley said. "'I can achieve my goals, I can change my community, I can change the world.' There is no greater power on Earth than the power of a made-up mind. Make up your mind to sell out to your dreams."
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.