WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Chadwick Boseman, a Howard University alumnus, delivered the keynote address at the 2018 commencement exercises.
- The Black Panther actor also received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters during the ceremony.
- During Boseman’s speech at the commencement rite, he advised students to conquer challenges and be passionate about life’s purpose.
Chadwick Boseman delivered a speech at his alma mater’s commencement ceremony, which focused on his advice to students to face life’s challenges without fear, and to always be fueled by a sense of purpose.
A South Carolina native, Boseman graduated from Howard in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He then attended the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford. After his first acting job as the lead in a New York City play, his role on a soap opera pitted his professional ambitions against his personal beliefs and values.
In the said soap opera, his character was a young black man with an absent father and a drug-addicted mother, who was then lured by a gang.
Feeling that it was a stereotype, he recalled, “I found myself conflicted. The role seemed to be wrapped up in assumptions about us as black folk – hardly any positivity.”
Boseman said he was fired after voicing his concerns to the show’s executives.
“What do you do when the principles and standards that were instilled in you here at Howard close the doors in front of you?” he said, “Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is.”
“Take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes. … then you will not regret it,” Boseman advised.
He then applauded the students’ protests over campus housing, tuition increases, and a financial aid scandal.
Boseman assured them, “Everything that you fought for was not for yourself, it was for those who came after you,” while also commending the administration for listening to the student protesters and for promising change.
Boseman continued, “Purpose is the essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.”
Howard University, known as “the Mecca” of black education in the U.S., is reported to have more than 2,000 graduates this year.
Boseman implored, “Savor the taste of your triumphs today. Don’t just swallow the moment whole without digesting what is actually happening here. Look down over what you conquered and appreciate what God has brought you through.”
Boseman was awarded during the ceremony with the university’s highest honor, an honorary doctorate degree, Doctor of Humane Letters. As Howard currently has a division of fine arts, Boseman declared that he will lead a campaign to create a separate college of fine arts at the university.
Chadwick Boseman concluded his speech with a “Wakanda salute” saying, “Howard forever.”