Clemson University Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill responded Friday to a derogatory comment that President Trump reportedly made about immigrants. “All men are created are created equal — no matter if you are from Haiti or the continent of Africa.”
Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail
Clemson University Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill responded Friday to a derogatory comment that President Trump reportedly made about immigrants.
Paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Gill said, “Even though we live in difficult times, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that we hold these truths to be all self-evident: That all men are created are created equal — no matter if you are from Haiti or the continent of Africa.”
“God does not measure where you come from,” he added. “God measures what you do.”
Gill’s remarks came during his keynote address at the Mayor’s Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at the Civic Center of Anderson. Several hundred people attended the event and many applauded his statements while calling out “Amen.”
Multiple news organizations have reported that Trump uttered a vulgarity Thursday about allowing immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries to come to the United States. In a Friday morning tweet, Trump denied making the comment during a meeting with lawmakers.
Gill was appointed in April 2016 as Clemson’s chief diversity officer and special assistant to the president for inclusive excellence.
Most of Gill’s speech dealt with efforts by Clemson to prepare students to be “leaders in this 21st century” by enhancing their academic skills and “global and cultural competencies” so that they can successfully work with others around the world.
“We are trying to do some new things at Clemson,” said Gill, noting that the university desegregated higher education in South Carolina in 1963.
Gill said Clemson is focusing on increasing its numbers of minority faculty and African-American, Hispanic and other minority students.
While emphasizing “we still have a lot of work to do,” he said progress has been made since Jim Clements became the university’s president on Dec. 31, 2013.
According to an email from Gill, the number of African-American undergraduate students enrolled at Clemson has grown from 1,057 in 2013 to 1,279 this year, an increase of 21 percent. The number of African-American graduate students at the university has climbed from 213 to 261 during the same period, an increase of 22.5 percent.
The number of Hispanic undergraduate students at Clemson has risen from 439 in 2013 to 727 this year, an increase of 65.6 percent, according to Gill’s email. The number of Hispanic graduate students at the university has grown from 83 to 146 during the same period, an increase of 75.9 percent.
Gill also spoke Friday about Clemson’s Tiger Alliance program, which is seeking to help 400 black male high students improve their high school and college graduation rates and also offer them career assistance.
He ended his speech with an upbeat message.
“Even though we face difficult days, even though there might be storms rising on all shores, we have each other. We have within our own selves the capacity to love, to connect, to support,” Gill said. “We are in good hands this morning with the dream of Dr. King, with the power that we have as we forge ahead to make a better tomorrow.”
In welcoming people to the breakfast, Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts recalled missing last year’s event to be with his daughter for the birth of his first grandson. He also spoke about recently receiving a clean bill of health after suffering a brain aneurysm on June 25.
The event featured musical performances by the chamber choir of Southwood Academy of Arts and Shaquana Miles.
Anderson resident Hattie Estella Williams was honored by Roberts with the Community Trailblazer award. Roberts said Williams is a mother of 18 children who has worked as a crossing guard at Westside High School since retiring from Michelin. He described her as a philanthropist and a “living legend” in Anderson.
During his speech at the event, Roberts stressed the importance of unity and education.
“There will always be forces, and people and organizations that are trying to divide us. But we’ve got to be strong and overcome the pressures that come with that divisiveness,” he said. “Together with love and humility if we all pull in the same direction, anything is possible.”
“I believe as Dr. King did that education is key,” the mayor said. “Education has solved so many of our social problems.”
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