May 27, 2003

Conversation with Glover leads off big weekend

By Eric Rangus

Since it was being held for the first time, asking for a hassle-free inaugural Class Day was simply too much. Good thing the participants were able to laugh off the problem.

With just one handheld microphone between them, special guests Danny Glover and Felix Justice improvised. With the two actors seated on stools, Justice got the handheld, while Glover used a microphone sitting on the podium to his right. It kept falling over.

“This is the first time we’ve attempted this,” joked Justice, a friend of Glover’s for 30 years and moderator of their Class Day conversation. “Please indulge us our technical difficulties.”

Justice gave Glover the handheld and moved behind the podium to complete their discussion. It was an especially light moment in a decidedly joyous event that kicked off the activities of Emory’s 158th Commencement, Thursday, May 8, in the P.E. Center.

More than 500 members of the Class of 2003 attended and not only heard advice from Glover and Justice, but some also received awards.

“I want to congratulate the Class of 2003 as you begin to make your real journey in life,” said Glover, who has appeared in more than 60 television and feature films. “You now will leave behind these hallowed halls, find your work, your life’s passion and grow in a different way.”

During a 25-minute conversation with Justice, with whom Glover has appeared on stage in An Evening with Langston and Marvin, the Emmy-nominated actor discussed his family history, his own background in community service and activism, and how his work as an actor has shaped his life.

Although known primarily as a film actor, Glover began his career on the stage; it is his first love, and his experiences in the theater were a main theme of his talk.

“The stage provided a platform to work and unveil a character,” Glover said. “In the theater, you can take a whole journey in 90 minutes. It takes an enormous amount of energy. Theater taught me that there is a whole continuity between art and language.”

While a native of California, Glover has strong ties to Georgia. His mother was born in Lewisville, and was the first member of her family to graduate from college. After graduating, she moved to San Francisco, where Glover was born. He said he visited Georgia frequently as a boy to work on his grandfather’s farm.

“My mom never let me forget my legacy,” he said.

After graduating from San Francisco State, Glover did not take acting seriously until he was 30. Up until that point he had been working in the community service sector in San Francisco. While working in that city’s Mission district, an area populated by many poor Hispanics, Glover said he learned a great deal, and that experience prepared him for the rest of his life.

“Everything you do prepares you for the next moment—the next journey,” he said. “So much has happened in the last 21 years that it feels like a whisper.”

Glover ended his talk with call for the graduating seniors to take a stand for what they believe in. “We often are unaware of the changes that happen before our eyes,” he said. “You must understand these changes and you must speak out of necessity, even if you make people uncomfortable. Our responsibility is to not sleep through great changes. Don’t sleep through these revolutions.”

Class Day featured more than just Glover’s appearance. Three graduating seniors, Purvi Patel, Rachel Shaw and Victor Delgadillo, received the first Boisfeuillet Jones Medals to commemorate good citizenship, outstanding leadership and devotion to the Emory community.

Students presented class gifts to the University and superlatives to each other (the whimsical awards included Most Likely To Have an Emory Building Named After Them). And everyone in attendance acknowledged the Crystal Apple Award winners, many of whom were in attendance.

The senior class reception in the Emory Conference Center followed the event, and a ceremonial candlelight walk across the Houston Mill Road pedestrian bridge to the Miller-Ward Alumni house for desserts and entertainment wrapped up the evening.