Rep. Maxine Waters at the Los Angeles Southwest College’s 2017 Commencement. (File Photo

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) served as the virtual keynote speaker for more than 2,500 African American graduates from 24 colleges across the state of California on Friday, June 19. The virtual graduation was organized by students and one of the founders of Brunch 2 Bomb, Adrienne Reed, as a salute to Black graduates in the Class of 2020 who were not able to have traditional graduation ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During her speech, Congresswoman Waters gave a shout-out to graduates from the 43rd District cities of South Los Angeles, Inglewood, Gardena, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Lomita, and Torrance, as well as the graduates of Loyola Marymount University and her alma mater, Cal State University, Los Angeles. Congresswoman Waters emphasized the virtual graduation theme of “We Deserve,” and encouraged the Class of 2020 to take that message to heart in their future endeavors.

“No matter what challenges or opposition you may face in life, you must be absolutely committed to the proposition that you are deserving of respect,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “You deserve to live and love freely without fear of persecution or condemnation. You deserve to thrive in your careers and express yourself creatively without the threat of bigotry and discrimination. You deserve to be able to live in a society that does not view you as a threat merely because of the color of your skin, the way you dress, or the community you live in. Black men and women, you deserve the best that this world has to offer.”

Congresswoman Waters also emphasized the significance of the virtual graduation taking place on Juneteenth, and paid tribute to her dear friend and former Texas representative, the late Al Edwards, who fought to make Texas the first state to make Juneteenth a paid, statewide holiday in 1980. She closed her speech by encouraging the graduates to take the world by storm and to speak truth to power.

“No matter what obstacles come your way – keep going. Take the world by storm. Be unafraid to speak truth to power and demand the decent quality of life that you deserve. Don’t allow coronavirus or any other obstacle to distract you from your mission to make this democracy more equitable, more inclusive, and more just. Put on your mask and your gloves, and when the time comes, launch your career. We are in the battle of our lifetime, and each of you represents our future,” said Congresswoman Waters.