1991 Hamilton College Honorary Degree
Presented to Bob Moses ’56
Historians of the Civil Rights movement have described you as one of its most important, and most elusive, leaders. We hesitate to call you a “leader,” because it was a role you consciously shunned. Nonetheless, you did lead by virtue of your quiet courage, selfless dedication, and inspirational example. You had little taste for factional struggles, preferring to work among the poor and disenfranchised, helping them to develop their own leadership. During those years of the early 1960s, you spearheaded the voter registration drive in Mississippi, embodying the ideal of participatory democracy. You were beaten, shot at, arrested and jailed, but your determination never wavered in your desire to help others help themselves.
While at Hamilton in the Class of 1956, you studied philosophy and captained the basketball team. Your classmates called you “an unmitigated idealist,” and they were right. After graduation, you went to Harvard and then took up teaching in your native New York City. Following your years in the South, you sojourned in Africa, working as a village school teacher. Back in this country after many years, you again became a teacher, having inspired the innovative Algebra Project in the Boston area. Once again, your aim is to motivate people, in this case school children, to help themselves to a brighter future. In your self-effacing way, “casting our bucket where you are,” you are the exemplar for all who seek empowerment of the less advantaged through community organization and education.
Robert Parris Moses, acting on the authority of the Board of Trustees, I am very pleased to confer on you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters of Hamilton College, admitting you to all its rights and privileges. In token whereof, we present you this diploma and invest you with this hood.
Harry C. Payne
May 19, 1991