Beto O’Rourke delivered a commencement speech at Paul Quinn College in Dallas this Saturday.
The 2020 presidential candidate spoke to students at the historically black college about the challenges they’ve faced and the important work ahead of them.
“The legacies of slavery, segregation, of Jim Crow, of suppression in every single part of this country now in the year 2019 is alive and well,” O’Rourke said.
To inspire students, O’Rourke talked about Dr. Lawrence Nixon, a Black physician who was barred from voting in a primary election in El Paso, Texas during the 1920s.
“Dr. Lawrence Nixon did not accept that, did not accept his disappointment, met it with a power and joy and took his case to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, not once but twice,” O’Rourke said.
“His persistence and his patience ultimately produced a victory, not just for Dr. Lawrence Nixon, not just for the people of El Paso or of Texas, but of this country.”
O’Rourke said that despite the progress earned by Nixon, voter suppression was still happening and pointed to Texas’ poorly drawn congressional districts and unfair voter ID laws.
Prior to Saturday’s speech, Michael J. Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College, said O’Rourke has been “a long-time friend to the Quinnite Nation and to HBCUs across the country.” HBCUs refer to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“We are thrilled to have Beto return to campus to address our graduating seniors and help us send them to the next chapter of their lives.”
The college presented O’Rourke with an honorary degree.
Elsewhere in his speech, the former El Paso congressman delivered some talking points he’s echoed on the campaign trail, such as the income disparity between races, the threat of climate change, and police brutality.
O’Rourke ended his speech with a warning to graduates about the importance of a continuous struggle for progress.
“At this moment, it must become absolutely clear to every single one of us, that progress will not sustain itself, that history can roll in reverse, and that no victory is final and the work is never finished,” O’Rourke said. “We can take inspiration in those who came before us and fought for these victories, but we can never take comfort in what they’ve done because we too must fight.”
You can read more about the 2020 Democratic primaries at the Texas Signal.