The new Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, Samford University graduate Freida H. Hill, encouraged seniors at her alma mater to stop listening to the doom-and-gloom reports that seem to surround them on every side.
“Fear not,” Dr. Hill said at Samford’s fall commencement Saturday, Dec. 12, speaking to an audience of 227 graduates and about 1,500 others in Wright Center. The 1973 honor graduate assumed her new post Dec. 1 after holding various administrative leadership positions in the Georgia technical college system since 1981.
“Some days when you are watching TV or reading the newspaper, you get the feeling that Chicken Little was right, the sky is falling,” she said. Her advice was, “Stop listening to them.”
As bad as the times seem with wars, unemployment, swine flu and the worst economy since the 1930s, “they really are nothing compared to what was going on in the Great Depression,” when Franklin D. Roosevelt told Americans they had nothing to fear but “fear itself,” Hill said.
“President Roosevelt called for America to use the Depression as a teachable moment,” she noted. “He said, ‘These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.’”
What do Roosevelt’s comments mean in 2009?
“I think they mean just what is written in Latin on Samford’s seal: ‘Nurturing persons for God, for learning, forever,’” said Hill. “What I mean is that you need to pay attention to what’s important and who’s important—around you every day, not just at work.”
She urged the seniors to watch for those on the sidelines, and to “pick them up, dust them off, and help them and lead them so that they can be successful too.”
Hill challenged each graduate to strive to be “an ethical leader who leads by example.” She added, “There’s a common misconception that leaders are always the top dogs, but I don’t believe that. To me, being a leader means showing others the way—helping to clear a path for their success.”
The speaker noted that Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”
“Be bold,” Hill urged the graduates. “Lead by example, start a parade, and march to your own beat.” In closing, she reiterated, “Fear not.”