Howard University hosted its 155th Opening Convocation at Cramton Auditorium with a speech from U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn, orator for the ceremony. The opening convocation signaled the official start of the academic school year, welcomed the new freshman Class of 2026 and acknowledged University achievements.
The event took place on Sept. 16 from 11 a.m to 12:30 p.m. Hundreds of students, alumni, staff, and faculty occupied the auditorium in anticipation of the first official opening convocation back in person prior to the pandemic.
The opening convocation began with an academic procession featuring live music from the orchestra. The performance was followed by a presentation and posting of the colors. In addition to a performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Howard University’s choir.
The event opened with an invocation delivered by the Dean of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University, Rev. Bernard L. Richardson. Afterward, President Wayne A. I. Frederick welcomed and shared a few words with the audience.
Frederick spoke on life after the pandemic and noted how much the University has progressed since March 2020. He touched on the recurring bomb threats Howard University has received and reassured the audience that the health and safety of those on campus remains a priority. Despite the ongoing issue concerning bomb threats, Frederick emphasized that pushing forward is the next priority.
“We will never stop pursuing our mission. We will never stop educating our students. We will never stop conducting research and generating important scholarship. We will never stop revealing truths. And we will never stop providing invaluable and irreplaceable service to our communities,” Frederick said.
During his welcome, Frederick had also taken the time to recognize and award Professor James Phillips, who teaches in the Fine Arts Department, with the Distinguished Faculty Award. He spoke of Phillips’ accomplishments and his commitment to his students and the university.
The opening convocation featured remarks from the chair of the Howard University Board of Trustees, Larry C. Morse. In his speech, Morse detailed Howard University’s history and the role that the Board of Trustees has played in the University’s success. Morse ended his greeting by sharing words of reassurance.
“It is the Board’s given task to find and attract the individuals and the resources to continue building Howard into its next great iteration. It is our obligation and our responsibility to be not only effective and conscious stewards of Howard of today,” Morse said. “But to guide and support the leadership of this institution as it seeks to build a Howard University of tomorrow.”
The orator of the opening convocation was U.S. Congressman Clyburn, a South Carolina State University graduate. He has held the position of House Majority Whip since 2019 and is the third-ranking Democrat in the United States House of Representatives.
In his speech, Clyburn stated his appreciation for HBCUs and the value of attending them.“…for as long as I have breath, I will always be a strong advocate for HBCUs,” he said in his speech.
Clyburn also stressed the importance of perseverance and learning from previous failures. He recounted the many losses he experienced running for office before eventually becoming the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives and the adversities he faced.
“I don’t care how many times you try. You keep trying until you get it right,” Clyburn said. “If I had quit after losing the third time I would not be standing before you today as the number three guy in the United States House of Representatives. Never give up!”
Clyburn concluded his speech with more words of advice to the audience. He highlighted the significance of getting to know the experiences of others. “Everybody comes here with a different set of experiences. A different background. Learn how to respect each other’s experiences,” he said.
Clyburn’s speech resonated with many audience members.
“…the orator himself, he has a lot of acumen and a lot of awards and things behind him. He reminded me of sitting at the feet of a grandfather, just listening to the wisdom that he spewed out,” Ruth Franks, Office of Institutional Research and Assessment said. “He had a written speech, apparently, that he didn’t read which particularly struck me because you have people to work on these speeches. But he felt inspired just by being on the campus so he didn’t even read his speech which I thought was tremendous. He did a great job.”
“The speaker was really really really great. He was very inspiring. I really liked him,” said Christine Frederick, a data analyst in the Office of Institutional Research & Assessment.
The event ended with closing remarks from Frederick. He expressed gratitude to everyone in attendance and introduced individuals fulfilling new roles within the institution. Frederick concluded his closing by sharing his love for the university.
“This place is a place you can’t help but fall in love with and my thirty year romance with this place will never end,” he said.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew