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Parents 'Let Go' of Class of 2013 During Parents Parting Ceremony

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

(Aug. 20, 2009) -- After awhile, Pam and Willie Washington didn’t even notice the pouring rain as they stood outside the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. They were already soaked in tears watching their son, David Hill, become a man of Morehouse during the Parents Parting Ceremony for the Class of 2013.

A little rain wasn’t going to hurt, the smiling mother from Richmond, Va., said.

“It’s hard for a mother to let go, but I know he’s in good hands,” she added. “But I feel good about Morehouse and I feel like he’s going to be safe here and well taken care of. I feel good about it.”

Wearing their crisp, white Morehouse Renaissance Men dress shirts and maroon and white ties, the new men of Morehouse marched from the center of campus into the King Chapel while families snapped photos and waved.

Inside, 2,500 parents, families and friends filled the Chapel to watch the approximately 700 freshmen and 100 transfer students, hailing from 35 states and seven countries, enter the Morehouse family.

“Your sons, like the 16,000 Morehouse alumni who preceded them, will realize their leadership role in world affairs and national and civic improvement,” said President Robert M. Franklin Jr. ’75. “But, before these gentlemen can begin the journey toward self-reliance, their caretakers must depart. Fathers and mothers must separate from their sons – temporarily – so that they may learn the crown values of accountable vocation, the beloved community, social justice, non-violence and divine order.

“This is the Morehouse tradition that prepares yours sons for responsible citizenship in a society that requires their leadership,” he said.

Throughout the two-hour, emotional ceremony, students were told by alumni, administrators and staff – and trustee emeritus and Morehouse dad, comedian Bill Cosby by phone – of their new responsibilities to grow as men, outside the purview of their families.

“And only those who are honest, courageous, ethical, respectable of just laws and determined, who are comfortable in their own skin, self-mastered and obedient to the unenforceable will be able to stay the course and wear the Morehouse crown,” said Chapel Dean Lawrence Edward Carter Sr. “Affirming excellence and actualizing the transcendence of self, you will be transformed at Morehouse.”

The culmination of the ceremony was the emotional shutting of the gates to the campus and separating parents and families from their sons.

“I lost it,” said Arlene Coppage of Wilmington, Del., who with her husband, Joel, watched their son Joel II march with the rest of his fellow freshmen.

“There were many moments, but what really broke me was when I let go and I walked past him and looked into his eyes and said ‘I love you’ and knew that I was letting go,” she said. “This was awesome for me. I’m beyond speechless.”

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