Letter from President H. Patrick Swygert
Dear Graduates of 2004:
Please accept my heartfelt congratulations as you complete this
important milestone in your lives.
Graduations and occasions of this nature are not only wonderful times to
celebrate, they are also critical watershed moments in our lives when we
take stock of how much we have accomplished, how far we still have to go
before we are even close to achieving our overall goals, and most
importantly, how fleeting is the time in which we have to do it.
As you graduate today, I am sure that many of you are reminiscing about
the first day you set foot on Howard’s campus to begin your
undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree. How challenging it must
have seemed then! Commencement was nothing more than a brilliant star on
a distant horizon, and I am sure that there were many moments when some
of you despaired that you would never get close to it. Well, you did,
and I share in your feelings of elation and joy as you complete this
phase of your life and prepare for the next.
Certainly, earning your degree is a tribute to your determination to
reach your goals, regardless of the obstacles that might come your way.
I know that for many of you the barriers were formidable. Financial
hardships, difficulty adjusting to a new environment, or managing work,
school, and family all at the same time served to complicate the process
for some of you. Through it all, you kept the faith guided by the wisdom
of your own inner voice and the support of friends and loved ones who
are celebrating with you today.
Now, as you leave the gates of Howard University, some of you will be
surprised to find that the degree you have worked so hard to achieve is
not in itself the automatic golden key that you thought it would be.
Some doors will remain closed to you, some ceilings will be far too low
for your spirits, your ambitions, and your capabilities, and some
opportunities will seem so exclusive that you will have to call forth
every ounce of your courage and determination to ensure they become open
The good news is that regardless of what you face outside, it is nothing
new to the distinguished alumni of Howard University that you are on
your way to becoming. Indeed, you are now an inextricable part of a
tradition that is rich with real-life stories of leadership, heroism,
courage, vision, and triumph that have played a defining role in the
history of modern America and throughout the global community, and are
also embedded in milestones like the 50th anniversary of Brown v.
Board of Education, which we celebrate this year, along with your
Further, within the sacred space of Alma Mater, you have been
nurtured both intellectually as well as with a sense of your own power
as a human being. You have been inspired by professors, staff members,
fellow students, and alumni who have dedicated their very existence to
the creation of a better world for all of us. As heirs to that
tradition, I expect that you too will triumph and by extension, expand
and perpetuate that legacy.
As you leave today, I urge you to keep alive your love for Alma Mater and the knowledge that you are part of a proud and noble heritage.
Return with honor.
H. Patrick Swygert