Retired Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown told SMU’s more than 530 December graduates that “[y]ou all may be the next greatest generation of heroes in this country.” The University celebrated its 2016 December Commencement Convocation on Saturday, Dec. 17.
SMU President R. Gerald Turner praised keynote speaker Brown for helping reduce both crime in Dallas and the DPD’s use of deadly force. Turner also commended him for his actions following the July 7 attack “when Chief Brown’s strength and leadership were tested on one of the darkest days in the history of Dallas.” That day, a lone gunman ambushed DPD and DART officers who had been protecting participants in a peaceful late-afternoon protest march downtown. Five officers were killed and 12 were wounded during the assault.
“Chief Brown took charge that night with the professionalism and calm demeanor of a true leader,” President Turner said, noting that the 33-year DPD veteran “helped maintain equilibrium in a wounded city.”
Brown’s address focused on his long-held fascination with heroes, especially Superman. Watching re-runs of “The Adventures of Superman” was a regular after-school pastime for the third-generation Dallasite. As a young man, Brown said, “I wanted so much to join modern-day heroes of our society that I rushed to sign up for the Dallas Police Department” in 1983.
Brown then told the graduates, “You all may be the next greatest generation of heroes in this country. You all are global citizens much more than my generation.”
His closing statement rallied the crowd even further.
“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! It’s a plane, it’s a train – no, it’s the 2016 graduating class of Southern Methodist University: My heroes. Now, go save the world!”
Also speaking at Commencement was SMU Engaged Learning Fellow José Manuel Santoyo, who earned bachelor of arts degrees in human rights and Spanish. The Mexican national and American citizen-hopeful, raised in Corsicana, spent much of his life as an undocumented immigrant before qualifying in 2012 to study and work legally in the U.S. thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program initiated by the Department of Homeland Security.
Santoyo thanked SMU’s “amazing faculty and staff,” including Embrey Human Rights Program Associate Director Bradley Klein, his Engaged Learning mentor. As part of his project, Santoyo voluntarily tested his DACA status via a study-abroad trip – risking not being able to return to his education and family in the U.S. – in order to document the experience and give courage to others wanting to follow in his footsteps.
Santoyo also recognized the Consul General of Mexico who was in attendance.
“This country continues to be built by immigrants,” Santoyo said, adding, “an educated populace benefits us all.”