This was a graduation ceremony with a difference.
Watch the video showing the end of his speech to see why.
MSN has the details:
Billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith was giving the commencement speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday, when he deviated from his prepared remarks to make an announcement: ‘‘My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans!’’
‘‘Everyone started crying and jumping for joy,’’ said a spokesperson for Smith, who asked not to be identified. ‘‘It was him speaking from his heart.’’
It’s hard to estimate the cost of Smith’s gift to the 2019 graduates of the all-male historically black college, but it could be in the range of $5 million to $10 million, according to estimates. There are 400 graduates in the class, and Morehouse costs about $26,000 per year, his spokesperson said.
There was celebration at Morehouse as the grads and their parents processed the news.
Tonga Releford, whose son Charles Releford III is a member of the Class of 2019, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that her son’s student loans are an estimated $70,000.
‘‘I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,’’ she told the paper.
Graduate Elijah Dormeus, a business administration major, told the newspaper: ‘‘If I could do a backflip I would. I am deeply ecstatic.’’
Dormeus, 22, who is from Harlem, said he has $90,000 in student loans. His mother, Andrea Dormeus, who drives a school bus, came to his graduation with his five siblings.
Moorehouse College is is the alma mater of African-American community and civil leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.
And Smith’s request? That his fellow graduates (he received an honorary degree that day) look after those coming after them. From the Washington Post:
Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward. I want my class to look at these [alumni], these beautiful Morehouse brothers, and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community. We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American Dream.”
This is an outstanding gesture. But the same result could be achieved by ensuring that the wealthy pay their fair share of tax and insisting that young people receive the education they deserve no matter how poor they are.