WASHINGTON (May 14, 2011) – Under an overcast sky and just a hint of rain, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial charged the 2011 Howard University graduates to hold to three standards as they pursue their careers – strive for excellence, advocate for equality and have high expectations.
Morial, the orator for University’s 143rd Commencement told the more than nearly 2000 graduates they must never accept mediocrity.
“Oprah Winfrey is where she is because she is the best,” the former mayor of New Orleans told the graduates, a sea of royal blue robes and mortarboards under a slate gray sky. “Barack Obama is where he is because he is the best. You must be excellent.”
He urged the students to always have high expectations for themselves and to pursue equality for all in their personal and professional lives.
Officials held the exercise outside on the main quadrangle despite early morning sprinkles and the threat of downpour rain. But the showers held off, and hundreds of families from 43 states and 29 countries saw their relatives receive their degrees.
Morial, an attorney and educator, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.
The class included: a Rangel fellow, three Fulbright Scholars, five Phi Beta Kappa inductees and 20 Teach for America corps members.
The University also awarded honorary degrees to author and journalist Thomas Friedman, Harvard professor and Howard alumna Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham and John Slaughter, a leader in educational, engineering and scientific communities.
Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, author of several best-selling books and winner of three Pulitzer prizes, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters.
Brooks Higginbotham, Ph.D., the Victor S. Thomas professor of History and chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Slaughter, Ph.D., professor of Education and Engineering at the University of Southern California, former director of the National Science Foundation, chancellor of the University of Maryland, College Park and president of Occidental College, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science.