President Joe Biden became the seventh incumbent U.S. president to deliver Howard University’s 155th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13.
The president received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree during the commencement event, as he extolled the legacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, in general, and Howard University, in particular.
“You are here with your heart and through the heartache, through blood, sweat, and tears of everything that’s come before, for everything yet to come. You are here at a new moment of hope and possibilities.”
He brought greetings from the Vice President Kamala Harris, an HU alum, as he gave tribute to the historic university, calling it a “proving ground for future leaders of science, medicine, education, business, faith, arts, entertainment, and public service.
Trailblazing intellectuals, lawyers, doctors. The first Black – I might say – Vice President of the United States of America.”
Excerpts From President Biden’s Speech
“We’re living through one of the most consequential moments in our history with fundamental questions at stake for our nation.
“Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we believe? Who will we be? You’re going to help answer those questions.
“We are living through this battle for the soul of the nation. And it is still a battle for the soul of the nation.
“What is the soul of a nation? Well, I believe the soul is the breath, the life, the essence of who we are. The soul makes us … “us.”
“The soul of America is what makes us unique among all nations. We’re the only country founded on an idea – not geography, not religion, not ethnicity, but an idea.
“The sacred proposition rooted in Scripture and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that we’re all created equal in the image of God and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives.
“While we’ve never fully lived up to that promise, we never before fully walked away from it.
“And today, I come here to Howard to continue the work to redeem the soul of this nation, because it’s here where I see the future.
“And I’m not – that’s not hyperbole.
“We can finally resolve those ongoing questions about who we are as a nation. That puts strength of our diversity at the center of American life.
“A future that celebrates and learns from history.
“A future for all Americans. A future I see you leading. And I’m not, again, exaggerating. You are going to be leading it.
“Again, let’s be clear: There are those who don’t see you and don’t want this future.
“There are those who demonize and pit people against one another. And there are those who do anything and everything, no matter how desperate or immoral, to hold onto power. And that’s never going to be an easy battle.
“But I know this: The oldest, most sinister forces may believe they’ll determine America’s future, but they are wrong.
“We will determine America’s future. You will determine America’s future. And that’s not hyperbole.
… “I give you my word as a Biden: Class of 2023, you’re the reason I’m so optimistic about the future.
“And I give you my word, I really mean it. You’re part of the most gifted, tolerant, talented, best-educated generation in American history.
“That’s a fact.”