MACON, Ga. -- Morehouse College's baccalaureate service speaker, Macon native E. Dewey Smith, told this year's class of graduating seniors not to stress out about their student loans -- but had no idea what was about to come.
Smith graduated from Morehouse in 1993 and has spent much of his life as a pastor, encouraging others by spreading the ministry. He was unanimously chosen to speak at the college's 2019 baccalaureate service, held just a day before the commencement ceremony where billionaire investor Robert Smith announced he would pay for the entire graduating class's students loans.
Looking back, Smith believes his impromptu decision to encourage graduates to work through the stress of their student loans came from a higher calling.
"I'm convinced that it was a spiritual, divine moment and I was just the spokesperson. I believe I was speaking what God wanted me to say to those students," Smith says. "I had no idea in 24 hours that was going to happen."
Smith says it just felt right to him at the time to tell the class they were going to be okay.
"But I just felt in that moment, it was as if I saw myself in their shoes," says Smith. "I wanted them to know, you look at a person later on, and you see different things of success, but struggles were on the first side of it."
Smith knows how hard some college students and graduates need to work before they feel like life is finally settling down for them.
"I was out of school for about a year when I was in college because I didn't have the finances, so I knew how difficult the struggle was," says Smith. "To have 400 young men that will be able to pursue their dreams without having that weight on them, I think it' absolutely massive, and I hope it challenges others with means of wealth to do the same."
Smith, who's also the senior pastor at The House of Hope Atlanta and The House of Hope Macon, says it was inspiring to watch this year's Morehouse graduates walk away from college debt-free.
"To hear them talk about the connection and to see it manifest in real time, to see them crying, to see grandmothers who have scraped and parents who have borrowed up to their limits just to provide some opportunity for their love ones, and now to know those scarifies have been taken care of," says Smith.