Belva Davis tells SF State grads to take 'affirmative action'

SAN FRANCISCO, May 24, 2014 -- At San Francisco State University’s 113th Commencement today, keynote speaker Belva Davis, longtime host of KQED-TV’s “This Week in Northern California,” urged students to address inequality that she says threatens the American dream.

Photo of Belva Davis at SF State's Commencement

Belva Davis tells graduates she always dreamed of coming to San Francisco State University.

“The simple truth is if we want to preserve America as we know it, we must take positive steps -- affirmative action -- to reverse the trend toward even greater inequities and turn instead toward shared prosperity,” she said.

Davis grew up in poverty in Louisiana and Oakland, Calif., and though she was accepted into SF State in the 1950s, could not afford the cost of college. Instead she went to work, and eventually became the first female African American television reporter in the Western U.S. Davis went on to be a reporter and news anchor for a number of Bay Area radio and TV stations in a career that spans nearly five decades. “Because I was invited here today, I will be able to fulfill a lifelong dream,” she remarked.

Though she acknowledged that the term “affirmative action” has become polarizing, Davis encouraged the new SF State graduates to embrace what the words themselves mean in the most basic sense: doing something positive. “I hope you will use your education and your experience to take affirmative action and influence our society and our politics for the better,” she said.

SF State awarded diplomas to more than 7,000 graduates, including 127 veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. A crowd of around 25,000 guests filled Cox Stadium for the ceremony.

“You will be leaders in science, industry, education, nonprofits and the arts, and I look forward to bragging about your achievements as our alumni,” SF State President Leslie E. Wong told the Class of 2014. “But I also know that you have been encouraged by your mentors to apply your expertise in the community, to be engaged partners in the world around you. Your contributions to our public heritage are an important measure of the impact of San Francisco State University.”

A number of students and faculty were acknowledged for their distinct contributions to the university. The California State University also awarded honorary degrees to SF State alumni Stanley Mazor and David Walden. Mazor helped revolutionize the computer world with the development of the first microprocessor, and David Walden was a key player on the team that created ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet.

Dana Anvari represented the Class of 2014 as its student speaker. The top undergraduate student from the College of Business, Anvari majored in marketing and plans to pursue her MBA at SF State. Though she’s lived all over the world, moving from Iran to England to Canada before coming to the U.S., Anvari said she learned unique lessons during her time at SF State, and called on her fellow graduates not to forget these as they leave college behind.

“Through our professors’ encouragement, we have learned to take risks to achieve greatness,” Anvari told the crowd. “We learned not to doubt ourselves. Frankly, if we put in the effort, we don’t have the right to doubt ourselves or to listen to those who do.”

This year’s Commencement was held in two parts: today’s ceremony for undergraduates and a ceremony Friday for more than 1,400 graduate students receiving their master’s and doctoral degrees.

“Now it is your turn as graduates to make a difference -- to make it happen,” Wong said at yesterday’s graduate Commencement event. “You are among the most talented graduates in SF State’s proud history, and I cannot wait to see what you accomplish.”




SF State is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls nearly 30,000 students each year and offers nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields -- from creative writing, cinema, biology and history to broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies. The University’s more than 235,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond.