Civil rights activist the Rev. France A. Davis challenges University of Utah graduates to ‘find a way to bring us together’

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Pastor France Davis speaks at the University of Utah's commencement ceremony, in Salt Lake City on Thursday May 2, 2019.

The University of Utah’s Class of 2019 includes 8,465 graduates — with more than 4,260 men, 4,086 women and 114 nonbinary and unidentified students. They come from all 50 states and 68 countries. They range from 18 years old to 72. They received degrees in communication and economics, and biology and accounting. And psychology. And engineering. And so on.

And all of them were challenged to do what’s never been done before.

“Find a way to bring us together,” keynote speaker the Rev. France A. Davis said at the university’s commencement ceremony Thursday night. Davis said nobody — “absolutely nobody" — had done that before, and in spite of growing polarization in the U.S., he said now is the time.

Davis, a renowned civil rights activist and religious leader, shared that instruction along with advice handed down from his parents.

First, he said, learn to rely on yourself. Second: Never say can’t. Third: Aim high. Fourth: Help others. Fifth: In spite of growing polarization, unite us. Sixth: Don’t go crazy with your liberty.

And last, which he prefaced with an apology to the English majors in the room: "Be what you is and not what you ain’t, 'cause if you ain’t what you is, then you is what you ain’t.”

That ending line brought the crowd to its feet.