WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- During Howard University's 152nd Opening Convocation, the Honorable Isiah "Ike" Leggett, alumnus and former Montgomery County executive, challenged the Class of 2023 and Howard community to get off the sidelines on society's current issues.
"Class of 2023, there is no middle ground for us in America on racism. You have to choose! You can't sit hiding behind on the sideline. But the good news is that there is an opportunity to reverse the ferocious trend that is dividing our great nation," said Leggett.
Leggett began his remarks by sharing an eye-opening look at his past, using the moments of his life to inspire the audience to take action. He highlighted that his former high school coach told him he was, "smart enough to be a doctor or lawyer one day," yet Leggett exclaimed, "I had never seen one." His experience is likely a stark contrast to that of the freshman in the audience who have had the privilege of seeing many successful Black leaders in today's society.
Leggett acknowledged the current student and alumni impact on movements, such as the Civil Rights era and Vietnam War to the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, and healthcare reform today. He was the first and only African American in his former position as Montgomery County executive, noting that Howard contributed to his success.
"I spent many inspirational years here, at Howard," said Leggett. "Howard continues to grow with each year that passes. Howard continues to drive change through innovation, rigor, and social awareness. The spirit of this great institution is fundamentally the same as when it was crafted."
He told the Class of 2023 what their task would be, once they graduate: It is to be new change agents.
"To those of you in the Class of 2023, this will be your challenge. It is a space in which you can make a positive difference with the training and education you will receive at Howard."
Howard University Wayne A. I. Frederick presented Leggett with an honorary degree of Humane Letters for his outstanding accomplishments in his community.
"Mr. Leggett's commitment to the community is an example of how public service is both a calling and a passion for those who want to create change within their communities."
In a surprise moment, President Frederick also took a moment of privilege to honor longtime Biology Professor and Chair Clarence M. Lee, Ph.D. with the Distinguished Faculty Medal. The recognition is a celebration of faculty who are leading the charge and inspiring new knowledge on campus and throughout the world.
President Frederick asked the audience of students, faculty, staff and alumni to keep moving Howard Forward , acknowledging the University's new strategic plan and accomplishments.
"In the last five years, Howard University has accomplished a lot. When we rolled out our Howard Forward: 2024 strategic plan, earlier this year, it was because we knew we were comfortable and confident in who we are and our unique calling," said President Frederick. "It will not be those of us who are present today who will see Howard University celebrate 300 years or half of a century. It will be a generation that looks similar to us only with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses; more capable; more daring; more confident, and more prudent. We have the privilege of witnessing those solutions be birthed into thought leaders and critical thinkers each day on this campus. Our mission is our why. And each of us are the how."
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, two Marshall Scholars, one Schwarzman Scholar, over 70 Fulbright Scholars and 22 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University visit www.howard.edu
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