Letter to 2008 Graduates from
President H. Patrick Swygert


Regardless of your course of study, your graduation from Howard University is perhaps your most significant accomplishment to date and by extension, the most joyous occasion of your life. The knowledge that you have completed a supremely worthwhile task as this, allows you now to envision both endless possibilities and many more daunting terrains that you can and will conquer.

I know that for most of you, this was no easy feat, irrespective of your talents and the intellectual prowess that you brought to your program. I know, for example, that even the brightest and best are often challenged to soar above distractions and to navigate life’s interruption in the form of financial hardships, worry about families left at home, or about loved ones serving abroad in the armed services, anxieties over what opportunities will be available to you after graduation and the myriad issues that may have loomed as obstacles in your way. 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 joy is multiplied and I know you are basking in the satisfaction of having surmounted difficulties with grace and earning your right to graduate from student to valued alumni.

As you leave Howard University, I cannot promise you that there won’t be new challenges. In all likelihood, your journey 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 of our gates, the world is not always as generous, nor is life as predictable.

Nonetheless, I have every confidence that just as you have overcome numerous hurdles to this point, you will find your way through the challenges that you will encounter in the months and years ahead. Certainly, 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 Howard alumni, you will become a part of that elite club.

Despite the inevitable obstacles, I urge you to see your graduation this year as the beginning, of a new and exciting journey into a world filled with glorious opportunities. 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.

I give you my prayers and very best wishes for successes and joys in the journey ahead.

H. Patrick Swygert