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Ensign DeCarol Davis 2008 valedictorian of US Coast Guard Academy

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by Dwight Dana

The 2008 valedictorian of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy — the first black woman to graduate at the top of the class — has close ties to the Pee Dee.
Although she was born and raised in Virginia, Ensign DeCarol Davis’ family is from Darlington. Her grandparents, Perry and Fannie Simon, own a quaint shoe shop there. Davis’ mother is the Simons’ daughter.
“I would say that my roots are in Darlington,” Davis said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “My mom, dad, sister and grandparents gave me a solid foundation of love. They have always encouraged me to be the best I can and to set goals.”
Davis attended the Coast Guard Academy on a full academic scholarship and maintained a 3.96 grade point ratio. She majored in electrical engineering.
She also gave the valedictory address wearing an omnipresent necklace with a quote from Mohandas Gandhi that reads: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Davis began her address by quoting Malcolm X: “We declare our right on this earth … to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”
She told her classmates that “we are a family of volunteers (a family whether we like it or not) here to preserve and protect our nation and humanity.”
For the Coast Guard, “by any means necessary” is not a willingness to kill for humankind, but more so a willingness to die, she said. “This day marks our legacy. Let us make history.
“I know I’m up here today because I’m a nerd who managed to be the best number, the best piece of paper for the past four years,” she said while delivering her graduation speech, “but I’d also like to think that I’m here because I respect humanity. I’m only 22 years old, so I’m not going to pretend to be some pseudo-righteous, overachiever who thinks she knows all the answers.
“But I am here to tell you that I believe in a history and a now that is ours, a history and a now filled with a consciousness of the human condition, filled with a respect for human beings.
“I need you to take this moment and see that I am black. See that I am a woman. I’m not going to tell you to close your eyes and imagine anything because we need to open our eyes and look this reality dead in the face. I need you to see that I am human. I am just like you. No better, no worse. If we can accept each others’ humanity, we can make history.”
Davis said humanity was key to her address because it’s a theme central to the service of Coast Guard men and women.
“My leaders here have supported me and I support them throughout all incidents whether race, gender or sex,” she said. “We are going to be facing these things in the future and it’s important we address them and I think we will.
“Today, we become the class that we set out to be four years ago. Today, we become officers and protectors of the United States Constitution. Today, we must acknowledge that we are all human beings and maintain that awareness by any means necessary. Our history is now. Shall we begin?”
Davis said her service in the Coast Guard protecting homeland security gives her many responsibilities. She has been assigned to a Coast Guard unit in Staten Island, N.Y., where she will work in marine inspections.


Written by Symphony

June 7, 2008 at 10:37 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hello, I’m trying to find some contact information for DeCarol Davis, I’m a photo researcher who is currently working on a book we’d like to feature her in. The author’s are asking me to contact her and try and obtain a photo. Would you have any idea of how I could get in touch with her?

    Thanks for any help,

    Jill LeVasseur

    Jill LeVasseur

    July 17, 2008 at 9:27 am

  2. I think the best way to go about is to contact the reporter (Dwight Dana) and also go through the US Coast Guard Public Affairs office. Here is the contact info for the USCG:


    July 17, 2008 at 6:08 pm

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