As my mentor and surrogate father, civil rights icon Ambassador Andrew Young would say, ‘coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.’ Well, the coincidence this past Mother’s Day weekend was that I was the selected Commencement Speaker for the 2018 graduating class of and for Alvernia University, as well as a recipient of one of their two Honorary Doctorate Degrees for 2018. And so, of course my mother was invited to attend as my personal guess, which happened to also be over Mother’s Day weekend. What I was not prepared for was to hear my mother tell me and my staff that this was ‘her best Mother’s Day ever,’ which of course then made the entire endeavor even more special to me. At that point, I was not just there to send off the Alvernia University student graduates of 2018, in the best possible way, I was then there to also honor my amazing mother. The loving, amazing, selfless mother to Dave D. ‘Donnie’ Harris, Mara ‘Montie’ Lamont Hoskin and myself. And honor her I and we did — in front of a full house crowd at Santander Arena in Reading, PA.
I was honored to accept my second lifetime Honorary Doctorate Degree, for the groundbreaking empowerment work of Operation HOPE, in the company of an inspiring co-honoree, Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert, Bishop of Allentown (Pennsylvania), whom I shared rich conversation over a private lunch on the same day.
Following my commencement remarks and graduation I had the pleasure and distinct honor of meeting a few of the graduates from the Reading Scholars Program, also sponsored by Alvernia University under the leadership of university President Tom Flynn. One stand out star was Ms. Karina Guadalupe Polanco, who came from Reading, PA and graduated this weekend Cum Laude, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, pictured to my right, standing with other Scholars after graduation.
This was a great day. and I was both honored to be invited and involved, and honored to be able to honor my own mother, Mrs. Juanita Smith, on this Mother’s Day weekend. A special thank you to Jeffrey Rush of Fulton Bank, who originally invited me to speak before the university and serves on their board. Operation HOPE is also honored to partner with Fulton Bank on a HOPE Inside Reading, PA location, which is producing results already for the local community.
Wherever you are, take a stand there, and decide to make a difference. That is precisely how we fashion and make, a better world. John Hope Bryant