Alumnus Smith ’85 puts words into action, with a wow

Cornell alumnus Robert F. Smith ’85 made a strong personal statement about taking care of community by punctuating the moving message of a graduation address with a powerful act.

In his speech at the 135th commencement at Morehouse College, May 19, 2019, Smith detailed some of his personal rules guiding his life and work, commenting that “What you say matters and what you say carries with it enormous power.” With a slight smile, he continued, “When you have confidence in your work, you become the one to raise your hand for that next assignment.”

“True wealth comes from contributing to the liberation of people,” he later added.

Then, in a direct challenge to the Morehouse alumni present, Smith claimed the Class of 2019 as his, stating his family would make a grant to eliminate the student loans of the entire graduating class.

We are enough to take care of our own community. We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream,” Smith said, “and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words.”

Watch the speech.

In 2016, Cornell named the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in honor of Smith’s support of diversity and academic inclusion, including his founding of the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program.

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