Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman has followed in President Obama’s footsteps to give an inspiring graduation speech at Howard University.
Speaking at Saturday’s commencement ceremony, the actor urged the 2018 graduate to ‘press on with pride and press on with purpose’ as they leave the historically black university to tackle future endeavors.
Boseman, who received a Bachelor in Fine Arts in 2000, attributed parts of his success to the Washington DC university saying ‘anything can happen here’, while offering personal examples of hardships throughout his career.
‘Many of you will leave Howard and enter systems and institutions that have a history of discrimination and marginalization,’ he said. ‘You can use your education to improve the world that you are entering.’
Howard University is often known as the ‘Mecca’ of black education, as it is one of the top historically black colleges (HBCU) in the country.
The university faced a rough year of unrest as students protested over a financial aid scandal, tuition increases and campus housing while petitioning for the school’s president to resign.
In April, students took over the administration building in a demonstration lasting eight days.
Boseman said he himself took part in protests while a student at Howard and praised both the students and administration for their efforts.
‘Everything that you fought for was not for yourself, it was for those who came after you,’ he said.
‘Take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes,’ he said. ‘Then you will not regret it.’
Boseman shared an anecdote about his first television role on a soap opera. His character was a black man with an absent father and drug-addicted mother.
‘I found myself conflicted,’ he said. ‘The role seemed to be wrapped up in assumptions about us as black folk – hardly any positivity.’ After he voiced his concerns to the producers, he was fired.
‘What do you do when the principles and standards that were instilled in you here at Howard close the doors in front of you? Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is’ he said.
The actor told the graduates to ‘invest in the importance of this moment and cherish it. Don’t just swallow the moment whole without digesting what is happening here.’
He told the students to find their purpose, adding: ‘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.’
Humbled, he said: ‘It’s overwhelming to be recognized amongst this year’s other honorees. I can think of no better place to be right now after the Black Panther and ‘Avenger’ campaigns.
‘Boseman ended his speech with his famous ‘Wakanda salute’, saying ‘Howard forever.’