NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas Delivers Commencement Address to Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts
NBA great Isiah Thomas delivered the commencement address to the Cicely Tyson School of Performing & Fine Arts graduating class of 2012 on Friday, telling the graduates they would face challenges in life but must persevere.
Student Olivia Mighty introduced Isiah Thomas. After his remarks, school founder and actress Cicely Tyson also spoke thanking Mr. Thomas for his ongoing work and for addressing this year’s commencement.
More than 90 percent of the Tyson School’s seniors are expected to attend four- or two-year colleges next year, and plan to study theater, instrumental music, fashion design, and theater production, among other fields. Three members of the class will enter military service.
Below are excerpts from the commencement speech Thomas delivered today:
“Graduates today, it’s about you, but it’s more about the people who didn’t give up on you. My mom would wake me up every morning and say, ‘baby, it’s time to go to school.’ My mother didn’t give up on me, and my aunts and uncles didn’t give up on me even when I had given up on myself because I didn’t think I would make it.”
Praising actress Cicely Tyson as a trailblazer, he said, “We are not the race of people who don’t want to be educated. We are the race of people that died to be educated…You have to have the courage to go outside the structure. She was determined to succeed. You are determined to succeed.”
“So I’m asking you, yes you’re graduating high school but can you do it again? If you’re knocked down can you get back up again?”
“When you come from where we come from, it is set up for you to fail. You have to do what Ms. Tyson did and go outside of the structure.”
“I have a question for you: when are you going to start believing in yourself? If that day is today, then don’t be afraid to say what Muhammad Ali used to say: ‘I’m the greatest.’ You know why he’s the greatest? Because he said so.”
Thomas graduated from Indiana University and is currently studying to receive his Masters in Education. Thomas won the NCAA basketball championship with Indiana University in 1981 and played 13 years with the Detroit Pistons, leading the team to consecutive NBA titles in 1988 and 1989. Thomas, an NBA All-Star for 12 of his 14 seasons with the Pistons, was named to the NBA’s list of top 50 players. He is a successful businessman and also the founder of Mary’s Court, named after his mother, which provides Chicago’s inner city children with food and mentoring.