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This is the first graduation season in many years I haven’t done a HBCU commencement speech.  It’s been a busy spring for me though.  Along with two amazing trips to Cuba I just returned from the 17th Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage Cruise.

But in between those events, my world was rocked by the death of two friends, Doug Banks and Miriam McGee.  And before I could recover from the news, Prince passed away.

My friend Doug battled diabetes for years but never gave it the attention it deserved and now we’re finding out that Prince may have been addicted to prescription drugs.

Prescription drugs are easy to get hooked on, especially after having a major surgery like hip replacement or any condition that leads to chronic pain.  I heard Dr. Drew say the majority of the high-profile deaths we’ve heard about lately were related to either overdosing or mixing the wrong types of prescription drugs.  I just heard a study this weekend that said more than half of the opiate overdoses that took place in this country last year involved people in the age groups ranging from 45 to 65.  We know enough about it now to realize that if a doctor prescribes Oxycodone or any opiate based drug the more we use, the more of a tolerance we develop.  When we develop a tolerance, we need more in order to alleviate the pain and that leads to addiction and death.

If I had to do a commencement speech it probably would be about a theme I’ve been passionate about for many years and that is healthy living.

I’m not here to judge.  I was a fat kid who struggled with my weight my entire life. I’ve lost very close family members from cancer and complications from diabetes. I’ve gotten up at 2:30 a.m. five days a week for more than 20 years and let’s just say I’ve partied like it was 1999 since 1969.

But what I also do is work out without a trainer, drink plenty of water, get tested, poked and prodded as much as my doctors recommend and eat as organically as possible.

Is this a prescription for longevity?  Who can say?  We all know people who do all the right things and still drop dead from a heart attack, get killed in a car accident or develop a weird or not so weird terminal disease.  BUT, a lot of people, especially Black people who die early have developed conditions that are either preventable or manageable.

If you’re under 30 or can remember when you were, think about your aunts and uncles and grandparents.  If they were overweight, had diabetes, hypertension, abused drugs and alcohol, there’s a good chance that you will suffer that same fate or are already experiencing it.

So, college students should know that watching their elders is like watching a movie of what their life will look like if they don’t begin to get a handle on their health today.

Let’s Get Smart About Our Health!  was originally published on

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