Chadwick Boseman might be an actor by trade — and a superstar one, at that — but that hardly seems to cover half the scope of his talent for captivating an audience. For those who haven't been fortunate enough to witness his magnetic presence in real life, Chadwick Boseman's commencement speech at Howard University is definitely worth a watch. The 40-year-old Black Panther star returned to his alma mater Saturday, May 12, to share some empowering wisdom about life and never giving up with this year's graduating class.
Boseman's full commencement address, which the team at WUSA9 shared on their Facebook page Saturday afternoon, spans just under 45 minutes. And, as those who've seen it (or even just snippets of it) are likely acutely aware, the speech was full of inspiring insights. Seriously, if Boseman's commencement address had a highlight reel, it would probably just be the entire thing.
But, while his speech touched on a whole medley of topics, the crux of it seemed to rest in Boseman's idea of "purpose," which was, ostensibly, a running theme throughout the address. "Purpose is an essential element of you," he told the students in the audience, arguing that finding one's purpose — whatever it may be — is crucial, perhaps even more so than chasing after a career. Elaborating on that particular point, he continued, saying,
"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."
In addition to his empowering words, Boseman's commencement speech also saw the actor perform the iconic "Wakanda forever" salute. Honoring its alum, the university also awarded Boseman an honorary doctorate degree during the ceremony.
During his rousing commencement address, Boseman touched on some of his own past professional obstacles, as the Huffington Post noted in its recent report. Though he spoke in somewhat vague terms, the seasoned actor chronicled one experience from early-on in his career, when he was cast in a soap opera role that he felt was "wrapped up in assumptions about us as black folk." While he didn't mention the name of the soap, Boseman revealed that he was fired from the show for voicing his concerns about the character.
Of course, given the current state of his A-list career, it seems Boseman has quite a lot of insights to offer as to the merits of pushing forward, even in the face of what might feel like failure, at the time. To that point, the actor discussed the value of taking the road less traveled — or "the harder way," as he put it — saying,
"I don't know what your future is. 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."
In addition to his big-picture wisdoms, Boseman also took the opportunity in his commencement speech to praise Howard's graduating class for those obstacles and injustices they've already begun to tackle. More specifically, he commended Howard's band of student protestors, who staged a massive nine-day demonstration last month in which they occupied the school's administration building. The protests, which cropped up largely in response to an issue with the school's financial aid office, eventually led to the administration agreeing to re-evaluate some of its policies.
Boseman addressed those student protestors directly in his speech, reminding audience members of the immense impact of their efforts — not only as it relates to Howard's current student body, but for all those students who will follow them. "Everything that you fought for was not for yourself, it was for those who came after you," Boseman said, adding that the student-led fight for justice should serve as a powerful reminder of their ability to instigate change in years to come.
Concluding the commencement speech, Boseman circled back to the address' unifying theme, inspiring the pool of graduates to keep going, in spite of those forces that might make them feel like they can't. "Press on with pride and press on with purpose," he told the audience. "God bless you, I love you, Howard. Howard forever."
As far as inspiring change is concerned, Boseman's commencement speech sounds like a pretty exemplary start. And, if their history of fierce advocacy is any indication, it seems pretty safe to say the year's Howard university grads are already doing their part to follow suit.