What Gillum’s run meant to FAMU

Photo Courtesy of Ralph Cantave.

On the eve of a history making announcement, Florida A&M University stood at the center of statewide and national attention, when the first black governor of Florida could have been elected to office. This feat would have turned a decade’s long Republican state into a Democratic state. For many, Andrew Gillum was seen as the underdog in the race. However, once Gillum won the primaries, he became a beacon of hope, leadership and change.

Gillum made history far before the primaries when he was elected to the city council at the age of 23. He served as president of the Student Government Association at FAMU and continued his path of leadership until becoming the Mayor of Tallahassee.

Gillum’s success represents the principles and ideals that FAMU was founded on such as service, excellence and tenacity. FAMU challenged the status quo of white dominance, and dared to create opportunities for an oppressed people, ever since its founding in 1887. 

Gillum often said in his campaign, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

It is this resolve which should motivate every FAMU student to pursue huge goals such as an entrepreneurial endeavor, harnessing skills, or simply graduating. Gillum out-debated and out-classed a Harvard graduate, which is profound, given the aura of superiority which comes with being an alumnus of Harvard University.

Darias Bowers, a political science graduate from Live Oak, Florida, expressed his views on Gillum’s run for governor.

“Andrew Gillum running is a reminder for us: the struggle of our ancestors and the hope of our offspring. His running allowed Famuans, blacks, and other minority groups to be encourages by our progress as people in society, that a black man would have the chance of becoming governor of the fifth largest state in America,” Bowers said. “As a black man, I’m empowered even more to know that there’s no system that can completely keep my black face out.”

Keith Simmonds, a political science professor at Florida A&M University, commented on Gillum’s loss in the governor’s race.

“In spite of former Mayor Andrew Gillum’s loss in his gubernatorial bid, he represents a rising generation of new political leadership in the U.S. Mr. Gillum has a bright future and I would encourage FAMU to be part of that future. Harvard University exhibited the vision to see this and that’s why Mr. Gillum is now a fellow at The Harvard Kennedy School of Political Science,” Simmonds said. “Why is it that America’s best institutions in every sphere of American life, have the vision and smarts to siphon off the best of the African American community for their purposes, while our best institutions seldom see the light before America’s best institutions do?”

He continued by recommending that FAMU invite Gillum to be a part of its administration as director of a new center for political studies. This new center would be a cornerstone for research and conferences focused on political issues. Simmonds’ suggested this would allow FAMU to achieve a “heightened reputation.”

Gillum’s race was key for FAMU moving forward in preparing the leaders, movers and shakers of industries that shape and influence our lives. The legacy he attempted to forge is the same exhibited by Shirley Chisholm and the same we must establish, like former president, Barack Obama.

In an interview with the Breakfast Club, when asked about a presidential run, Gillum mentioned that his focus will be on helping the Democratic nominee turn Florida blue and help register 1 million people to vote. As candidates begin to gear up for the 2020 election, let us position FAMU to be a player in shifting the course of this nation the way Gillum sought for this state.