Longtime civil rights leader and successful businessman Vernon Jordan visited Dougherty Family College (DFC) on Monday to speak with first-year students and share experiences from his storied career and life.
Jordan encouraged DFC’s first-year class to dedicate themselves to their education, seek out mentorship and to “spend the extra hour studying.”
“My counsel and advice to you is to study hard, work hard,” he said. “You can be whatever you want to be, if you work at it. There is nothing free out here. Nobody’s giving anything away; you have to earn it.”
Jordan grew up in Atlanta and attended DePauw University in Indiana as the only black student in his class, and went on to become executive director of the United Negro College Fund and, later, president of the National Urban League from 1971-81. A civil rights leader throughout that time who would go on to be a close adviser to former President Bill Clinton, Jordan survived an assassination attempt in 1980 in which he was shot and seriously wounded, a fact DFC dean Alvin Abraham pointed to in highlighting the willingness of Jordan to sacrifice throughout his life to do what was right.
“I believe I speak for the entire class when I tell you how grateful we are for you coming to speak with us today,” a first-year student said before posing a question to Jordan about how students can work to empower themselves in an era where objective truth is seemingly difficult to find.
“The first act of empowerment is learning something in this institution. To fight what we are up against requires intelligence and education,” Jordan said. “Also, in my experience, we have to spend more time working at the problem than complaining about the problem.”
Encouraging students to take advantage of the opportunities and resources they have available as college students, Jordan sprinkled funny stories amid his consistent message of hard work as the key for students to succeed.
“Wherever I am now, whatever great jobs and honors, that only happened because of my own commitment to hard work and sacrifice,” Jordan said. “I was willing, ready to spend the extra hour reading, the extra hour preparing, the extra moment repeating what I needed to do to be ready. There’s a preacher in Atlanta called William Holmes Borders, and he has a poem, ‘I Am– Somebody.’ I always believed I was somebody.”