ATLANTA, Ga. -- From the motivational speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the spiritual guidance of Mahatma Gandhi, Morehouse College in Atlanta is literally covered with inspirational messages.
One phrase, however, has become the mantra for what it takes to become a Morehouse man:
“Iron sharpens iron,” said Morehouse College president Dr. David Thomas.
Thomas says students and staff at this historically black men’s college have turned struggles into strengths for more than a century.
“What we do here is something that doesn’t happen anywhere else on the planet,” he said.
The Morehouse campus is quiet this summer with all classes now being taught online. A decision Thomas says may spill over into the fall semester.
“I’ve got to do the best job I can for this college,”said Thomas.
With staff and salary cuts already happening, the impacts of COVID-19 could last much longer.
“When you talk to our students about their experience being here, they will often talk about the power of being in a place where black male excellence is an expectation,” Thomas said. “And that’s hard to communicate in a virtual experience."
Morehouse’s 2020 valedictorian, however, was able to express the difficultly of this new reality in simple terms
“I think my experience when COVID hit was, I describe it as a little disappointing,” said new graduate Golden Daka.
Though Daka is disappointed, he says his class has turned this pandemic into a learning experience.
“It let us know that life isn’t not guaranteed and the most precious moments that you cherish could easily be taken away from you,” he said. “So, a lot of people are approaching this as a form of adversity to get stronger an to get better in areas of weakness.”
In addition to closing campus, Morehouse College has also canceled all fall sports, which they say is the first Division II HBCU in the country to make that decision.
“It’s heartbreaking for me,” Thomas said.
Despite the disappointment, Thomas says Morehouse is more focused on academics than athletics, adding that the key to reopening campus is finding a vaccine.
“We’re going to have to do that before I think we can declare victory against the virus,” he said.
Morehouse now has the chance to play a role in that victory. Its school of medicine was awarded a $40 million government initiative to combat COVID-19 in minority communities, something Thomas believes will help better the world.
“Only history will determine it,” he said.
A history of excellence, as iron continues to sharpen iron.