‘Black Panther’ Star Chadwick Boseman Urges Howard University Grads to ‘Press on With Purpose’ Amid Failure at Commencement

Actor Chadwick Boseman, star of the box office smash “Black Panther,” returned to his alma mater Howard University on Saturday to urge its newest graduates to find purpose in their lives and persevere, even amid adversity.

“I don’t know what your future is,” said Boseman, who delivered the main address at the university’s 150th commencement. “But if you’re willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes . . . then you will not regret it.”

Boseman, who graduated from Howard in 2000, spoke to hundreds of newly minted graduates and their loved ones, who had gathered on its iconic Yard to celebrate and consider their future.

“Purpose is the essential element of you,” Boseman told the graduates. “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.

“Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose,” he said.

The ceremony capped off a turbulent academic year at Howard, the historic private university, which is known as “the Mecca” of black education and is located in Northwest Washington.

In September, former FBI director James B. Comey was jeered throughout an address at the university, bombarded by chants of “Get out, James Comey! You’re not our homie!” In late March, students began an occupation of the school’s administration building, a demonstration that would stretch into early April.

A brutal winter battered the campus. A scandal unfolded in the school’s financial aid office. A critical email from the school’s president about a worried student’s “tone and tenor” caught fire on social media.

“Howard has gone through a lot of ebbs and flows,” Jade Agudosi, who served as president of the Howard University Student Association this academic year, said in an interview before the ceremony. “Through the year, we’ve shown our resilience.”

On this bright Saturday, though, there was joy on Howard’s campus. And Boseman recalled his fond memories at the institution, including his own experiences with student activism.

“This is a magical place,” he said. “A place where the dynamics of positive and negative seem to exist in extremes.”

Boseman told the crowd of a time in his acting career when he was cast in a role but found himself conflicted about the character he was supposed to portray. He felt the role seemed to be wrapped in assumptions about the black community, and he raised the issue with executives on the show.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Sarah Larimer