CNN Names Commencement Speech at Mississippi’s Belhaven University Greatest of All Time

Published 10:27 am Sunday, June 20, 2021

(Jackson, Miss.) – CNN recently selected a Belhaven University commencement address by artist Makoto Fujimura as one of the 17 greatest commencement speeches of all time.

Fujimura’s 26-minute speech on April 30, 2011, takes a permanent place in history among speeches from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, former President Barack Obama, and talk show host Oprah Winfrey at prestigious institutions such as Harvard University, Dartmouth College, and Stanford University.

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Fujimura, who was awarded a Doctor of Arts Honorary Degree at the commencement, said, “I’m honored to be included in the ‘Top 17 Greatest Commencement Speeches of All Time.’ Seeds sown ten years ago at Belhaven University have taken root and have become the basis of my new book Art+Faith: A Theology of Making.”

During his address, Fujimura stated the necessity of art amid a hurting world. “The arts are not a peripheral luxury for the elite few, but a central necessity, how a civilization is to be defined, and how our humanity is to be restored. The arts, like the spring flowers all about Belhaven University this day, bring the aroma of the New … to create is to hope. To create is to live.”

The commencement address had a tremendous impact on Belhaven’s Class of 2011 and many who have heard it since. Blakeney Hatclif ’11 was a music major at the ceremony and remembers the speech. “As a music major about to enter ‘the real world,’ this address was a huge encouragement. Even now, when I’m tempted to question my calling, I’m reminded of this moment!”

As well as being a leading contemporary painter, Fujimura is also an arts advocate, writer, and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a cultural influencer. More about Makoto Fujimura.