Students walking into the graduation ceremony.

“The Adventure of Now”: Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr. Addresses W&J College Graduates

Created: May 23, 2021  |  Last Updated: October 5, 2021  |  Category:   |  Tagged: , ,

WASHINGTON, PA (May 23, 2021) – Washington & Jefferson College’s Class of 2021 is “the adventure of now,” prepared to make the positive changes needed in today’s world, keynote speaker Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr. told graduates during the College’s 222nd Commencement ceremony.

Dr. Franklin, President-Emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. and a noted Professor of Moral Leadership and NPR contributor, addressed 257 graduates at W&J’s annual ceremony on May 23 with his speech “The Adventure of Now.” The ceremony was held at Wild Things Park in Washington, Pa.

Franklin said the Class of 2021 is poised for leadership.

“You can elevate the discourse from mundane self-interest to what’s morally important in the public interest. That’s what we need from leaders,” he said. “Leaders create new narratives and tell truer stories. They provide new vision and new language to reframe old debates. You have the power to envision and state clearly what needs to be done here and now to bring about liberty and justice for all, and you can inspire people to engage this reality.”

W&J College President Dr. John C. Knapp also addressed the class, commending them for persevering through the challenge and uncertainty of the global pandemic and overcoming obstacles to earn a variety of achievements. He noted his confidence that the graduates are fully prepared to serve a world where W&J’s values of uncommon integrity and responsible citizenship have never been more needed.

“Yours has not been an easy journey, yet you have learned that you possess the grit and resilience to adapt to new challenges wherever they may arise,” he said. “When sometime in the future, you find yourself facing adversity—as we all inevitably must—you will know that no obstacle is too great for you to overcome, for you belong to the Washington & Jefferson College class of 2021.”

Franklin echoed that sentiment, telling the class that we live in the age of moral leadership, of women and men of integrity and courage, empathy, wisdom and imagination who continue as usual, who carry on despite challenges.

“You share the age and the stage with truthtellers, healers and visionaries like Dr. Fauci and Bryan Stevenson, Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis, Chadwick Boseman and Lisa Simpson, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar,” he said. “But, none of them has your longstanding swag, W&J. So, go forth…show the world your courage, integrity, kindness, respect, wisdom, and patience. You are the adventure we’ve been waiting for.”


About Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr.

Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr. served as President of Morehouse from 2007 to 2012 and is currently a Senior Advisor to the President of Emory University. He also is the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at Emory, and is a presidential fellow for the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership at Morehouse College. He has served on the faculties of numerous colleges, gaining a national reputation as director of Black Church Studies.

Outside of academia, Franklin provides commentary for the National Public Radio (NPR) program, “All Things Considered,” and weekly commentary for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting Television. He has consulted on film work for Dreamworks and the History channel, authored four books, and penned the foreword to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, Letter from Birmingham Jail, reprinted by Trinity Forum in 2012. He has worked with Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama on various initiatives, and serves on the boards of numerous civic and social organizations. Read more about him here.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.