Each graduation season, I am always reminded of my beloved Howard University. This school wasn’t my first or last choice, but there was something special about it. In a previous blog, I shared the story of how my mother was a professor at Howard and participated in my graduation ceremony as a faculty member. Today, as a Board of Trustee member of my kid’s school, I participate in the graduation each year and I always tear up from feeling the majesty of a formal ending. I can only imagine the emotion my mother felt that day as she watched her daughter cross the stage
Opting to attend an HBCU proved to be an incredible experience for me. Most find the value in choosing an HBCU lies in the feeling of success and excellence without the shroud of the outside world. They find pride in knowing that they are delivering excellence and are unencumbered by the history and ever-present social oppression. An HBCU is the one place where they can move about without the worry of being judged by the color of their skin. They are not worried about having to overcome old, untrue stereotypes. For a short time, there was a bit of an escape. They are simply competing and “becoming” (Michelle Obama style). On that commencement ceremony day when you gather to celebrate the closing of this chapter, there is a collective excitement, energy, and hope that is hard to capture.
This year, Taraji P. Henson received an honorary doctorate and delivered a powerful commencement address to the graduating class of 2022. She offered that there are few choices in life that affect everything in our lives and determine who were are. Particularly useful for chartering the uncertainty of today’s world, I’d like to share those choices below:
- Choosing to put your faith over fear.
- Choosing to rise in hope, rather than sink in cynicism.
- Choosing to love instead of hate.
As graduates turn the page on this chapter and enter the “real” world, my hope is that they will believe they can do great things and commit to the level of high standards and excellence they learned to deliver to their professors. Professors demanded this excellence because they did so themselves. And now it’s your turn. Sharing a space with 1,953 degree-earners and knowing that they are all walking out with this shared belief is the ultimate value of an HBCU! And, when that HBCU is “HU, YOU KNOW!”
Our theme song is Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches, Op. 39 by Sir Edward Elgar.