By Jade Myers
Every year thousands of college graduates walk across the stage to receive their degree. But on May 12th, Grammy Award-Winning Hip-Hop Artist Chancelor “Chance the Rapper” Bennett was among the Class of 2018. Bennett delivered the commencement address at Dillard University’s 82nd Ceremony on the Avenue of the Oaks, and also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
It had been some time since Bennett walked across a graduation stage. He told the graduates and their family that he never had the opportunity to receive his high school diploma or attend college. The opportunity to be Dillard’s Commencement Speaker was a surreal experience for him, he said. He urged graduates to be better than the people they admire, and to exceed who their heroes are, what they did, or what they achieved.
“Living up to your heroes is amazing, but it is not good enough,” Bennett said. “The difference between goodness and greatness is going beyond. You have to push forward and surpass their greatness in order to pay homage to their [heroes] struggle,” he said.
Bennett said he felt that Beyoncé’s recent performance at Coachella was one of the greatest performances ever, even greater than some of Michael Jackson’s best. The importance of having heroes or icons, Bennett said in his speech, was not for the current generation to simply replicate what they did, but to watch, learn and study what they have done and use that to become greater. Bennett said going further than past icons and heroes is what this generation owes them.
His insights and philanthropy in the Black community is why Dillard University’s President Walter Kimbrough said he worked hard to bring Bennett to the Gentilly campus. Kimbrough said he felt this generation of graduates needed to hear from speakers who are very different in their backgrounds, but still equally substantive. Having Bennett as his university’s commencement speaker was a good experience because he felt Bennett challenged graduates to push the envelope and go further.
“We sometimes look at idols and think that this person is the best, but if we do not look past that to figure out what we do to build on their legacy, then that is not good enough,” Kimbrough said.
“It is a disservice to our ancestors if we would [only] try to emulate them,” Kimbrough said.
The relevancy of Bennett’s career and advice resonated with some graduates who said they felt it was timely to hear from someone from their generation who had defied odds and is giving back to the community.
“Having Chance, the Rapper here was very inspirational,” said DaNaisha Kidd, who graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Dillard.
“To have someone as a millennial, someone to relate to. It was enjoyable and a big bang to the end of our journey,” Kidd said.