Bethune-Cookman University's sixth President, Dr. Edison O. Jackson hosted "A Prayer Breakfast for Education," at the Amway Center in Orlando. B-CU Administrators, Students, Educators, Clergy men and women, elected officials and friends gathered for prayer a day after Secretary DeVos delivered the commencement address to the Class of 2017.
There wasn't a dry eye in the room after DeVos' youngest son, Ryan, broke into tears as he prayed for his mother. "Help her to be focused on your will every step of the way," said Ryan DeVos. 26. "Bring peace and unity to our country."
The education secretary spoke briefly at the breakfast, highlighting her reasons for getting involved in education. She said her journey began when her oldest son, now 35, started kindergarten. DeVos began volunteering at a small Christian school in Grand Rapids, Mich. that served low-income and mostly minority children. It was there that she realized that every parent, no matter their income, wants the best education for their children.
DeVos said she has spent the past 30 years ensuring that "every child has the opportunity to have a quality education." She quoted B-CU founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune who said, "Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible."
B-CU President Edison O. Jackson told the audience, "we have a new friend in Washington D.C. and we want to be a part of the solution." Jackson praised DeVos' commencement speech and her controversial visit to the historically Black Daytona Beach university. He said that 84 percent of B-CU students receive Title IV funding to pay for their education and some historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU's) use more than that.
"She (DeVos) possesses the passion that will help transform education in this country," Jackson said. "We have to be in the business of embracing diversity."
Jackson compared DeVos' mission to change education to Mary McLeod Bethune's drive to start a school for Black children. The missionary started the university on faith after she purchased a former garbage dump. She rode her bicycle beachside to sell potato pies to support the school.
"She (Bethune) wasn't worried about politics or her location," Jackson said. "She was on a mission." The faithful surrounded DeVos and raised their hands as Dr. Albert Mosley, Chief Operating Officer at B-CU, led a prayer for her health, mind and spirit. "We know there are far more thankless days ahead when she finds herself wondering if it's all worth it, we pray that the Holy Spirit will revive her," said Mosley, who added that he hoped DeVos would remember the support she found at B-CU.
The Bethune-Cookman University Concert Chorale performed several religious hymns during the hour-long breakfast. Rev. John Baldwin II, Dean of Chapel at B-CU, urged the audience to stand behind DeVos' mission to transform education during the final benediction.