Chadwick Boseman gave a stirring speech at Howard University – and it’s everything you’d expect from a real-life superhero (and then some!).
Chadwick Boseman – who plays T’Challa in Black Panther, the 12th highest-grossing movie of all time – returned to Howard University this week to speak to students.
The South Carolina native, who graduated from Howard with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2000, began by telling the Class of 2018 that the campus represents “the culmination of the intellectual and spiritual journey you undergo while you were here.”
“That is the magic of this place,” said Boseman. “Anything can happen here.”
However, Boseman went on to explain that life outside of university can be very different – particularly in terms of the opportunities offered.
Recalling one of his earliest acting roles, which saw him portray a young African American with an absentee father and drug-addicted mother, who was subsequently pressured into gang life, he said: “I found myself conflicted. The role seemed to be wrapped up in assumptions about us as black folk – hardly any positivity.”
After voicing his opinion to the show’s executives, Boseman said he was fired.
“What do you do when the principles and standards that were instilled in you here at Howard close the doors in front of you?” he said. “Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is.”
The actor urged graduates to, like him, “take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes”.
“The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose,” he told them. “So press on with pride and press on with purpose… [because purpose] is the essential element of you.
“It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfil.”
Boseman – who was awarded the university’s highest honour, an honourary doctorate degree, Doctor of Humane Letters – implored graduates to “savour the taste of your triumphs today”.
“Don’t just swallow the moment whole without digesting what is actually happening here,” he told them.
“Look down over what you conquered and appreciate what God has brought you through.”
Then, as he wrapped his speech, Boseman performed his now-iconic ‘Wakanda salute’, saying: “Howard forever.”