U.S. Rep. Wilson hails Claflin honors students for leadership, service

Apr 5, 2005
The Times and Democrat By LEE HENDREN, T&D Staff Writer By the time he was 19, the Nazis had taken over his country. By age 20, his parents and only sibling were all dead. Then the communists took over, put him to work in a caustic soda factory and tried to stamp out religion in his country. Karol Wojtyla was undeterred. He studied in secret for the priesthood, rose quickly through the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and eventually became the first pope from Poland. "All things are possible, and we can see that in the example ... of Pope John Paul II," U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson said Tuesday at Claflin University's Honors and Awards Convocation. "His struggle was difficult," but "he achieved beyond imagination," Wilson said of the pope. "He spoke eight languages. He made 104 trips to 129 countries over the 26 years of his service, and he actually met and spoke to more people than anyone in the history of the world. "We can see how one man can make a difference," the congressman said. "The young people with us today can also change the world for good. ... You are the next ‘Greatest Generation' in the tradition of the World War II generation. "I always enjoy convocations for recognizing students for outstanding academic achievement," Wilson said. "I am encouraged and inspired to see young people who make such a difference, such a positive difference, in our community. "Claflin is fulfilling the Claflin imperative: Preparing students for leadership and service in a multi-cultural global and technological society," Wilson said. The congressman said he felt "so much at home" at Claflin, where he has "lifelong friends," including retired South Carolina Chief Justice Ernest Finney Jr. "He is actually in bronze on the Statehouse grounds. He's the only person that I've ever heard of and met, truly, that is in bronze. ... He's a Claflin graduate; you can be so proud," Wilson said to applause. Another Claflin visionary — its president for the past 10 years, Dr. Henry Tisdale — "is a regular visitor to Washington, where he is welcomed as a champion of promoting the best opportunities for Claflin students," Wilson said. Wilson encouraged Claflin students and graduates to visit his congressional offices in Columbia, Charleston and Washington. "The first thing you'll notice when you get to Washington is that we have a framed print of Tingley Hall. Mention, 'That's the school that I go to,' and you'll be greeted with rose petals," Wilson said