PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Pace's Class of 2014 is ready to meet the world.
Pace University held its annual commencement ceremony on Friday, graduating around 475 students in Pleasantville and 3,500 overall. The graduation featured a commencement address from Lawrence Otis Graham, a lawyer and author who lives in Chappaqua. Graham, who was awarded an honorary doctorate, is also a commentator on News 12.
Graham asked graduates to join him in a war on bigotry, similar to President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.
"This war becomes even more urgent when we hear people like Donald Sterling espouse hate," Graham said. "We hear of a police chief in New Hampshire calling President Obama the n word. You hear of florists not doing flower arrangements for gay weddings."
Graham said bigotry often takes a passive form and that it has become a divisive issue rooted in fear.
"It's practiced by people who put on a suit and are well educated," Graham said. "They are held in high esteem and hold respectable jobs. Some of them are our neighbors, co-workers and family."
Growing up, Graham said real estate brokers refused to show his parents homes in certain neighborhoods. Later in life, he went undercover working at a country club, where he was asked if he'd be staying in the "monkey house." Graham wrote about his experiences in New York Magazine.
"People at the club were furious and said the monkey house was nice and employees were treated very well," Graham said. "The point was over their head. Fighting against passive bigotry is a challenge. Stand up and do something. Be a revolutionary. Pace has armed you well to change the world."
Uday Sukahame, provost at Pace, praised the students for overcoming obstacles to graduate.
"Some of you had to work part time while others had to develop willpower to watch less TV and movies," Sukahame said. "Education gives you the potential to earn money, make discoveries in graduate school and help people. There are endless possibilities. You got 475education, you got potential, who could ask for anything more?"