By Allura Leggard
The Sag Harbor School District will welcome Don Lemon, a CNN anchor and broadcast journalist, as its commencement speaker this weekend. “I will talk to the class about the world we live in” he said during an interview via Skype on April 25. “I’ll probably talk to you about freedom of the press, freedom of speech, campus life and, diversity” — topics Mr. Lemon said are important for college freshman to hear, and to understand.
Sag Harbor will celebrate the graduating class of 2017 at Pierson High School on June 24 at 5 p.m. As it has in the past, the ceremony will take place on the hill in front of the school, barring rain. Speaking at the event will be Superintendent Katy Graves, Principal Jeff Nichols, Valedictorian Eve Bishop, Salutatorian Ella Parker, and Mr. Lemon.
Mr. Lemon, now a part time Sag Harbor resident, was secured as the speaker for Saturday’s graduation exercises by Pierson High School senior and class president, Isabel Peters, who emailed the anchor asking him to deliver the address.
Mr. Lemon has his own two-hour segment on CNN Tonight. In his youth, Mr. Lemon attended both Brooklyn College and Louisiana State College where he majored in broadcast journalism. In college, Mr. Lemon said he had people who tried to discourage him from pursuing his dreams and goals. “There was a professor that was nice to my peers but treated me differently,” he said. “He told me I was never going to make it as a journalist.”
While Mr. Lemon said this kind of discouragement can be common on some college campuses, his passion, or “driving force,” as he called it, motivated him not to let someone dissuade him from his goals. “I was determined to prove him wrong” Mr. Lemon said.
Mr. Lemon said advice he would give to college students — or anyone, for that matter — would be “no one has to believe in you but yourself.” While determined to prove that professor wrong, because he believed in himself, Mr. Lemon added it was also a strong work ethic that enabled him to achieve his goals.
“If you think it’s going to be easy — don’t do it, if you think it’s going to be glamorous — don’t do it,” he said, noting it should not be the materialism of success that drives you to pursue a goal, but the experience one will gain.
His first goal was to be like his dad, an attorney, Mr. Lemon said but added “I got to college and I wasn’t interested.” As he stated previously, passion had to do with his decision to switch his major. “I switched to journalism and here I am.”
“I am genuinely excited to hear Mr. Lemon speak at our graduation this Saturday. As a distinguished CNN anchor, it is an honored to be able to celebrate this milestone with such a politically active and influential guest speaker, Ella Parker, salutatorian, said on Tuesday.
Eve Bishop, the class valedictorian, added, “It means a lot to have Mr. Lemon speak at our graduation. I think having a commencement speaker who is so politically involved and knowledgeable will be extremely valuable. Our class is grateful he is taking time out of his busy schedule to share some advice and wisdom with us.”