Commencement 2003
Letter from President H. Patrick Swygert

Dear Graduates of 2003:

Please accept my heartfelt congratulations as you complete this defining milestone in your lives.

Whether you have earned an undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree, this is perhaps your most significant accomplishment to date. The knowledge that you have completed such a worthwhile task allows you now to envision endless possibilities and to look ahead to many more daunting terrains that you can and will conquer.

For many of you, this was no easy goal to realize. Irrespective of your talents and the intellectual prowess that you brought to your work, I know that quite often, the challenges of organizing yourself to cope with a rigorous course load was complicated by financial hardships, worry about families left at home, and anxieties over what opportunities will be available to you after graduation. Through it all, you remained steadfast, inspired by the knowledge that you were doing the right thing.

Now, as you receive your degrees and the blessings of loved ones and Alma Mater, I know your own joy is multiplied. I know you are basking in the satisfaction that you have surmounted the worst challenges with grace and earned the right to graduate from student to valued alumni.

I cannot promise you that everything will be smooth from now on. In all likelihood, it will become more difficult in many ways. You are leaving the sacred space of Alma Mater where nothing about you was ever taken for granted; where you were valued and nurtured by a community of people bonded by shared legacy and common hopes for a brighter tomorrow regardless of race, gender, color, or creed. You will find that outside the gates of Howard, the world is not always as generous, nor is life as predictable as your college experience has been.

Nonetheless, I have every confidence that just as you have overcome numerous hurdles to be where you are now, you will find your way through the challenges that you will encounter in the months and years ahead. Indeed, our history is steeped in a tradition of confronting difficulties with vision and boldness even when it meant great personal sacrifice. Throughout your years at Howard, you have heard countless invocation of the names and ideals of those who have gone before—those who we call on when our own spirits are sagging and the ground under our feet seem far less firm than we would like it to be. They were and are the thinkers, teachers, researchers, lawyers, judges, engineers, architects, healthcare professional, public servants, entrepreneurs, critics, and activists who have had positive and lasting impact on our society. As a Howard alumni, you will become a part of that elite club.

I urge you to see your graduation this year as the beginning, rather than the end of a journey. And as you continue on, keep alive the spirit of Howard University and the special experience that you and others before have cherished so deeply. Keep alive too your love for Alma Mater and the knowledge that you are part of a great heritage.
Return with honor.

I give you my very best wishes for your every success.


H. Patrick Swygert