After weeks of controversy surrounding Howard University’s decision to bring the successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and music industry mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs on as commencement speaker for his alma mater Howard University’s graduation and numerous students chanting against the decision but finally backing down – the event, speech included, turned out to be a success.
Combs delivered the commencement speech at Howard University’s 146th commencement exercises on May 10, 2014 in Washington, D.C. which also honored CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Chairman and CEO of PespiCo Indra K. Nooyi, professor of surgery Dr. Clive Callender, and jazz legend Benny Golson.
The controversy centered on the fact that Howard decided to award Diddy an honorary doctorate of humanities, even though he left the university in his junior year after being offered an internship at Uptown, which led to his ultimately starting his own label Bad Boy Records. Combs addressed more than a thousand graduates, including those who disagreed with Howard’s choice of commencement speaker.
“There were some graduates who thought him receiving an honorary degree when they earned theirs is contradictory to what they went through,” said Cameron Terry, a junior business management major. “But if you had the same opportunity, you would do the same thing.”
In his speech, Diddy acknowledged the reason for the controversy but said it was a risk that Howard staff encouraged him to take. “I thought it was cool because he’s an unconventional speaker,” said graduate Marian Taylor. “I think it really fits our class because we grew up listening to his music and he has made it.”
And Keiana Allen, the cousin of a graduate, felt the best advice he could give to the students is to keep pushing. “He needs to let them know this isn’t the end, this is only the beginning,” she said. “You have your degree, but so does everyone else. You have to do what you have to do to stand out.”
Before thanking the crowd and leading the traditional school call, Diddy gave one last parting message to the class of 2014: “I can’t wait to live in the world that you all are about to create. You are the most powerful generation this world has ever seen.”
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