Rucker, well known for his role of “Sheriff Troy” in the Tyler Perry film “Why Did I Get Married?” and its sequel, “Why Did I Get Married Too?”, told students they need to let their voices be heard, especially in this upcoming election.
“You are the future of this country, your voice will be able to shape this country,” he said.
Rucker told the students their voices will also help shape Talladega College.
Rucker is no stranger to education and activism, and said he hoped his message of staying grounded while reaching for higher ground would give students a guideline to help them through their journey at the college.
“I thought that message was most relevant and it was one of the things that got me through,” Rucker said. “I don’t preach what I don’t practice.”
The Pittsburgh, Pa., native grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He received drama and musical theater training at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg and earned a full scholarship to the Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge, Mass.
Rucker also has a long list of community outreach initiatives that include “Tied To Greatness,” “Art Creates Life,” “Green For All,” “Good Ground-Good Life,” “A.H.E.A.D. Inc.,” “Inner City Industry,” Black Entertainment Television’s “Rap-It-Up” campaign, and the Black AIDS Institute.
Even with his extensive background in education and activism, Rucker gave students a simple message inspired by his 8-year-old cousin: “Have fun and get good grades.”
Rucker told the students that their experiences at TC would be a balancing act between having a good time and establishing a solid work ethic, but that self-determination would see them through to the end.
“I don’t care how long it takes you, finish. Get it done,” he said.
He told the students to use their time at TC to develop the talents they already have so they can add to the college’s legacy.
“When you learn to trust the power God has given you, you’ll always end up where you’re supposed to be,” Rucker said.
He also asked students to incorporate the “C.O.D.E.,” which stands for confidence, opportunity, discipline and excellence, into their lives.
He ended his message by having students loudly repeat after him, “You are destined for greatness,” before ending with, “We are destined for greatness.”
Before Rucker took the stage, band director Miguel Bonds led the Talladega College Band in “The Greatest Love of All,” with soloist Raven Grow, and later “Best in Me.”
Brionna S. Young from the Class of 2016 gave the benediction, and Mr. Talladega College Tevon Bond and Miss Talladega College Vandrea Watts gave the welcome.
TC Board of Trustees Chairman Harry L. Coaxum greeted the students, and Deirdre Childress, president of the Student Government Association, introduced Rucker.
Toward the end of the program, Hawkins said the college had an historic enrollment of 1,202 students for the 2012-2013 school year.
“You are the largest freshman class that has entered Talladega College, and that number is 533 students,” Hawkins said. “America needs to hear this. Our male student population is 629, our female student population is 573.”
Hawkins asked that students be patient while the college undergoes growing pains, with many of them currently housed at local hotels due to the increase in enrollment.
He said renovations to the Foster Hall dormitory will be completed soon, and the college’s historic Amistad murals will soon be moving to a museum in Dallas, Texas.
“We’re so honored to have this marching band,” Hawkins said. “This band has been together less than a month.”
He said there are approximately 150 students in the band.
Jacqueline Paddio, vice president of student affairs, told students that their time at TC would be a partnership between themselves and the college.
“You are responsible to embrace and accept the ideals of the college structure of your academic future,” Paddio said. “Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. Are you ready for the charge?”
She told the students to join clubs and organizations, to visit the library, and dress up on Wednesdays for Business Dress Day, among other things.
The program closed with the college’s alma mater, “Dear Old Talladega,” performed by the band, and a benediction from Young.
Contact Aziza Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.