“Dr. Rao, Dean Gooden, associated administrative officials, faculty, honored guests, and all assembled, I am honored to be here today.
I remember this building well. As a boy, I worked in many places in this section of Richmond as well as waiting tables at the Commonwealth Club and The Jefferson Hotel just down the street. I remember walking by on some hot summer days and going downstairs where the globe lights signifying a pharmacy still exist. You could go in and buy an ice cream cone or a soda, but you could not sit and enjoy it inside.
Well, we’re inside today.
There are many honored guests and friends here, and I know it is a mistake to mention some and not all, but I beg your indulgence to mention a few. Former President Eugene Trani and Former Dean Bob Holsworth were both factors in bringing me here in 1994 and were further instrumental in recommending and securing agreement from the Board of Visitors to have this School bear my name. I am forever grateful.
They had established a state and national reputation of being on the cutting edge of issues relating to government and public affairs. That was what brought me here, and I’m happy to see that we are moving further up the ladder in rankings, thanks to a lot of contributing factors relative to leadership in that direction from many of you present.
The other person I would like to recognize is my former law partner, Judge Roger Gregory. Roger was the first African American elected as chairman of the board of visitors at VCU he sits now as chief judge of the US court of appeals for the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
Every day I see the increased need and the importance of our universities and colleges, in educating those who have been entrusted to them in the furtherance of their education. This need is not limited to getting a degree or a position related to their field. It is in starting them on the never-ending journey of being a contributing part of the polity, the participation process. It does not mean running for or holding public office. It does mean those who do must listen to you and the people.
It would be less than honest of me to be here today and not acknowledge certain things. Earlier this year, I filed a lawsuit against VCU, not for anything for me, not a single thing, but for someone employed by them. I did so because I felt that I knew VCU’s commitment to justice and fair play would not tolerate or abide provable actions contrary to that commitment. In fact, they followed through on that commitment by taking action. That matter between VCU and myself, at my behest, is not in litigation.
There is a counterclaim filed by the former dean of the school. He says in his counterclaim, which has been published in the media: “Wilder would make up unfounded and false claims of racism and discrimination in obvious efforts to have [him] replaced.”
If any shred of that were true, I could not come before you today, as I would not trespass on your indulgence.
The truth will out.
America, today, is in continuing search of itself. Pessimism exists at every turn. Our responsibility as a school is to continue to ignite the flame that kindles human progress, and to have our students demand what is right and criticize what is wrong.
To Dean Gooden, I congratulate you and wish you well, and if the next three months are anything like the last, we ain’t seen nothing yet.”