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Penn 2012 Commencement Address by Geoffrey Canada

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Published on May 14, 2012

Following a theme of service and collaboration, guest speaker Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, implored the Class of 2012 to bring their talents and join his "losing team" in the war on poverty, violence and the lack of education.

The Harlem Children's Zone serves thousands of Central Harlem children from the time they are born through college, and is considered a model of positive community empowerment across the nation. Canada's groundbreaking work was featured in the award-winning 2010 documentary film "Waiting for Superman."

"Do you know why I offer you this opportunity to play on the losing side?" he asked. "Because in the end we are going to win. Because we are right. "

"There is no way that our great democracy will continue to be a beacon to the free world if the rich hate the poor, and the poor hate the rich. If our middle class becomes a thing that your children will read about in their history books because it no longer exists, our country will decline," Canada said. "If we continue to have neighborhoods that the affluent are dying to get into, and the poor live in neighborhoods where they are just dying, we will have lost the promise of America. So you see, I know an enlightened, educated group of men and women would not tolerate their country drifting towards this calamity. So in the end we will win."

Before delivering his address, Canada received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the University.

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