Sunday, June 23, 2024

Stevie Wonder urges graduates to vote as he accepts honorary degree at Fordham

Music icon Stevie Wonder’s vast achievements now include an honorary degree from Fordham University.

The 25-time Grammy Award winner – real name Stevland Morris – received an honorary doctorate of humane letters Saturday at Fordham’s 178th commencement, where he informed the graduating class that he has faith in them and that they inspire him to sing and stay motivated, Fordham News reported.

The songwriter-singer-instrumentalist urged the New York City university’s graduates to exercise their right to vote and to use their education to address the suffering that exists in the world. 

Stevie Wonder AP
Iconic musician and activist Stevie Wonder received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at Fordham University’s 178th commencement on Saturday. (Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

“You’ve got to be activists,” Wonder implored. “You have to vote. You have to serve your communities, and you must enlighten the unenlightened.”

Fordham recognized Wonder for his artistic talent and advocacy for social justice and humanitarian causes, including his campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday and to increase the accessibility of published works by making them available in Braille, large print and audiobooks.

“You really do have to be woke,” Wonder said, according to Fordham News. “Now, maybe some leaders in this nation don’t understand what being woke is. Let me tell you what it is. It’s being awake. And being awake means being aware.”

He highlighted issues including health care, education and the New York subway chokehold death of Jordan Neely, a Black homeless man. Following his remarks, Wonder performed a song from his new project, “Through the Eyes of Wonder,” and his classic hit song, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”

The longtime artist-activist assured the day’s graduates that Fordham has equipped them with the means necessary to succeed, excel and contribute significantly to society, but “that’s not gonna happen by sitting on your hands,” Fordham News reported.

“So stand up,” Wonder added, “and be counted as one against oppression, hatred, and let’s keep the truth alive.”

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