For the past two years, even as the coronavirus pandemic has continued to create uncertainty in our society, Howard has made concerted efforts to host an in-person Commencement Convocation. To be sure, our priority has always been and will forever remain the safety and security of our community; we would not have held in-person Commencement ceremonies if we did not think we could gather safely to do so. But the emphasis we placed on having a traditional Commencement says something about the significance of this ceremony.
Commencement has become a time-honored tradition in academia across the globe because it reinforces for students the purpose driving their education. Amidst all of what we must do to graduate, sometimes we can lose sight of why we have worked so hard to earn our degrees in the first place. Graduation is predicated on far more than crossing the minimum credit threshold. To reach Commencement day at an institution like Howard University requires students to have changed from the person they were upon first matriculating. We don cap and gown at graduation to illustrate the ways in which our education has empowered our personal transformation. The knowledge and skills we have developed give clarity to the mission we will set out to achieve. That is not to say the roads that graduates travel after Commencement are clear and straightforward. On the contrary, earning a degree should endow graduates with the confidence to change course and to veer onto another path. Our purpose is our fuel that moves us forward; it is not a destination.
As much as we strive to remind Howard students of the reason behind their educational journeys throughout their careers, there is no more effective or timely means of reinforcing this message than at Commencement. Through the pomp and circumstance, the speakers brought in to deliver insights and inspiration, the surrounding support of University faculty and staff as well as loved ones who have traveled far and wide to be with our graduates on this day, the spectacle is an important display of the investments and sacrifices that have been made to give graduates this opportunity.
Just as a degree from Howard University will always be a worthwhile pursuit, so should in-person Commencement always be a goal we seek to attain – for our graduates and for those who have done so much to see them reach this day.