Johnnetta Betsch Cole, author and editor of numerous books, is President Emerita of Spelman and Bennett Colleges, Director Emerita of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art, and former Chair and President of the National Council of Negro Women. She lives in Florida.
This chapter includes a selection of Johnnetta Betsch Cole's commencement speeches, which capture a synthesis of the sage wisdom and inspiring advice that she offers to new graduates. In her 1996 speech at Emory University, she offers lessons learned from anthropology to help graduates as they venture out into the world. In her 2011 commencement address at Trinity Washington University, she recalls key experiences with inspiring women teachers from her childhood, who taught her vital lessons that she has relied on throughout her life. She also praises the crucial work of women's colleges in educating twenty-first-century leaders. Finally, in her 2014 speech at Bennington College, she offers a personal story of her courage in choosing to embark on a new career as a museum director and she encourages the graduates to exercise courage as they choose their life's work, take risks, and speak out against injustice.