Student Body President Lamar Richards’s Inaugural Address
Friday, April 29, 2021
Good Evening, I am honored to be stepping into the role of Student Body President for this next year.
The late Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, stood before the Supreme Court in 1987 and uttered words that would become known as the moral fabric of democracy: he said, “justice cannot prevail in any single instance, but rather justice must be a constant state of being.” These words still resonate so heavily with those that fight each and every day against the injustices of a world plagued in chaos. “Justice must be a constant state of being.”
And, when I think about what that means for Carolina: the reckoning, the building, the forging forward – I am inspired. But I also recognize that the pursuit of justice, equity, and renowned scholarship is not a task for any one person.
Today’s inauguration shall serve as a testament, not of who we have been, but rather of who we are and can be. A testament to all that we have endured over the past year, to all we have had to face, and certainly a testament to all that we have lost in pursuit of something greater.
Stepping into this role, it is not only my commitment but also my solemn duty to ensure that this University, the oldest Public University in the country, actively reckons with its colorful past in a way that uplifts and prioritizes its marginalized student identities.
This commitment does not mean on paper, it means in action. That through my actions, you’ll be able to tell that I am truly invested, committed, and dedicated to the work before me. It is my firm belief that how the University responds to its most valuable stakeholders, students, in the coming months will truly determine whether this University is prepared and equipped to face the grave, but necessary, challenges of a brighter, better Carolina.
This means, of course, that our academic policies must be revised to provide more flexibility in how students are able to engage the University in the midst of adversities. It means that our graduate and professional students not only deserve representation on the Board of Trustees but also deserve a University that is both committed and invested in raising their stipends to livable wages. It means that our University must put substantial resources towards supporting our most vulnerable marginalized communities.
This also means that the time for exploratory committees, councils, and ad-hoc groups has, in fact, passed. The challenge has arisen and there is no more time to deflect or circumvent the justice and support that every single student deserves.
The times we are currently living in have caused so many of our community members to live in fear of retribution for simply being who they are. Black men and women are being slain at the hands of those sworn to protect us. Members of the Asian American community have been victim to continuous attacks, hate, and prejudice. The transgender community is facing personal and legal attacks as state legislatures across the country attempt to deprive our transgender peers of their foundational rights, even right here in North Carolina, where anti-trans legislation is making its way through both the North Carolina senate and house.
But, one thing is for certain. At Carolina, we must stand above and against these attacks on the various members of our community simply for choosing to live as their most authentic selves. You should not have to change who you are or who you aspire to be to fit into the Carolina fabric. Carolina ought to be worthy of fitting into your story. Carolina ought to be who you need it to be.
Our stories are important. Who we are is important. So today, I challenge each of you to tell. your. story. You should never feel the need to diminish your story to fit the trend of Carolina. Instead, it is the obligation, the mandate of this University to uplift these very stories in shaping our collective belonging.
And as I address you all today, I acknowledge that my own story and my own journey did not start with me waking up one morning and being sworn in as Student Body President. It took hard work, overcoming challenges, but most importantly leaning on those who I value most – God, my team, my family, and my partner [Austin].
The question before us today, as student-leaders, as those that care deeply about this University, is not what we did yesterday, but rather how we will be remembered for the actions we take today, and will take tomorrow.
As we forge ahead into a year filled with many unknowns, with many challenges, and many grand ideas of what we hope to accomplish, I challenge us all to remember that at the end of it all, we are only able to do our best. And sometimes, we might find that our best may fall short of our personal expectations. But we must always remember that our mental and emotional wellness is paramount. Prioritize and protect your peace as you continue to lead our student body over the coming year.
As I started, I will also leave with a quote from former Student Body President, the late Eve Carson, who once reminded us to “Learn from every single being, experience, and moment. What a joy it is to search for lessons and goodness and enthusiasm in others.”
I pray for a prosperous and purposeful experience in the year ahead, indeed.