Georgia Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock to be 2024 JCSU Commencement Speaker

Georgia Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock sized for intro

Georgia Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock will be the keynote speaker at Johnson C. Smith University’s 151st Commencement Exercises. Johnson C. Smith University President, Dr. Valerie Kinloch, made the announcement during her Inauguration Ceremony as the 15th President of JCSU, Friday, April 5, 2024. 

Senator Warnock’s journey to the United States Senate made national headlines in 2021 when he became the first Black person elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Georgia. Warnock’s story is an American story: humble beginnings to measurable success. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. In addition to his role as U.S. Senator, Warnock serves as Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Dr. Kinloch, 15th President of JCSU says she is thrilled to have such a distinguished visionary as the 2024 Commencement speaker.

"As an alumna and the President of our 'dear ol' JCSU,' I am excited that Senator Raphael Warnock has graciously agreed to serve as our 2024 Commencement Keynote Speaker. In such a time in our society—marked by ever increasing educational inequities, social inequalities, and debates about the value of higher education—we must have bold leadership and visionary leaders who honor Black Excellence and the significance of centering historically marginalized and minoritized voices. Senator Warnock is such a leader.”

Dr. Kinloch sees the commencement address as an opportunity for the entire community. “I am honored that our students, faculty, staff, families, and friends will have an opportunity to learn with and from him as we engage in a New Era of Excellence at JCSU."

Senator Warnock grew up in Kayton Homes public housing in Savannah, Georgia, born 11th in a line of 12 children. He endured a childhood of poverty, but has confessed it was a childhood filled with love and rooted in the church. In his autobiography, A Way Out of No Way, Warnock states, ”I had two devoted parents at home, and they kept church at the center of our lives.” At age 11 years old, young Raphael, named after an archangel in the Bible, delivered his first sermon. It was the start of a trek that would lead him to a career in the pulpit. Senator Warnock’s father, a veteran, small business owner and preacher, grew up in Burke and Screven County, GA. Senator Reverend Warnock’s mother grew up in Waycross, GA, where she spent summers picking tobacco and cotton. These humble beginnings for Raphael Warnock became a launchpad for a career on the national stage.

One stop along the way was Morehouse College, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where Senator Rev. Warnock learned to “train the head and tune the heart.” Flanked by a gallery of classmates, Morehouse men, eloquent speakers and preachers-on-the-rise, Warnock took to the stage of Morehouse’s King’s Chapel to hone his oratorical cadence and craft a career that took him to Union Seminary in New York and back to Georgia where he began his career ordained in the ministry.

For over 15 years, Senator Warnock has served as Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former pulpit of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Warnock is the youngest pastor selected to serve in that leadership role at the historic church.

Senator Warnock was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in the January 5, 2021, special election runoff for the term ending January 3, 2023, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Johnny Isakson, a seat previously held by appointed Senator Kelly Loeffler. Rev. Raphael Warnock took the oath of office on January 20, 2021.

The Johnson C. Smith University 2024 Commencement Ceremonies will take place Sunday, May 19, 2024 at 9:00 in the morning at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, NC.

Johnson C. Smith University is the number one private HBCU in North Carolina, founded in 1867 and based in Charlotte, North Carolina. JCSU, home of the Golden Bulls, prioritizes academic excellence, featuring 22-degree programs and a diverse faculty from around the world. 

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