A Call to Action: The Rev. William Barber II Addresses Drew Theological School Students Before Graduation
Barber T’03 speaks at hooding ceremony.
May 2017 – Drew Theological School’s annual hooding ceremony was a homecoming of sorts for the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a 2003 graduate of the seminary.
As such, the president of North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C. received a particularly warm welcome as the keynote speaker at an event that recognizes candidates for master’s and doctoral degrees.
In his introduction, Dean Javier Viera said to Barber, “You embody the best of Drew, you remind us all of what the life of the mind and the life of the heart make possible when they inform one another, and you represent your alma mater on the cutting edges of society, the academy and the church in exemplary ways. You honor us with your presence, and it is an honor to welcome you back to the Forest.”
“It’s good to be home,” Barber said, near the beginning of his address. It wasn’t long before Barber, known for his passionate speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, had the crowd on its feet.
The minister called on the seminarians to help create a new moral wind in America that the public can rally around as a common good. Such a change is deeply needed, he said.
“You as preachers, by your very nature, are the prophesy of that wind,” Barber said. “Slavery was a foul wind, but then another wind blew Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass together so that they formed a fusion movement that brought about abolition.
“Women didn’t have the right to vote and that was a foul wind,” he added. “Then the wind blew in Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who stood until suffrage was won by women. Apartheid was a foul wind, and then a new wind brought in Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. This is how it has been at ever part of our history.”
Barber noted current signs of hope.
“Every time I see a Moral Monday, I see a wind blowing,” he said. “Every time I see Black Lives Matter, I see a wind blowing. Every time I see women marching, I see a wind blowing. Every time I see a Muslim refusing to hide, I feel a wind blow. We will see change and you will be a part of that change.”
After Barber’s address, Viera and the faculty of the Theological School decorated 102 students with doctoral and master’s hoods signifying their degrees and honors. It was the group’s penultimate step toward graduation after years of study, and they seemed inspired to turn their knowledge into action.