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'Purpose is the essential element of you': Listen to Chadwick Boseman's 2018 Howard University commencement speech

Boseman passed away from colon cancer on August 28, leaving behind an illustrative legacy in film. He was 43-years-old.
Credit: WUSA9

WASHINGTON — On May 12, 2018, a 41-year-old Chadwick Boseman looked out at a crowd of hundreds of starry-eyed graduates and their loved ones. 

He was delivering the main address of Howard University's 150th commencement, where 18 years prior, he was on the other side -- listening in, about to walk across the stage to his own future.

“I don’t know what your future is," Boseman said to the crowds, eyes twinkling. "But if you’re willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes . . . then you will not regret it."

WATCH: Listen to Boseman's inspiring message to graduates

Boseman, who passed away from complications with colon cancer Friday, left a legacy within the film world, both acting and teaching. At the time of the 2018 speech, he had been battling cancer for two years.

He graduated from Howard in 2000 with a B.A. in Directing, later becoming a drama instructor and heading to Los Angeles to pursue acting.

He was known for dozens of roles including starring as the 'Black Panther' and as Jackie Robinson in '42'.

An outpouring of admiration and support for Boseman ignited after the actor's death, with fans and loved ones across social media remembering the man who poured his heart into his craft and his people.

Such tributes included those from Howard University, who wrote that Boseman's talent will be 'immortalized through his characters and through his own personal journey from student to superhero.' At Howard, Boseman also was mentored by Tony Award-winning actress and director Phylicia Rashad, who taught an acting class. 

"This is a magical place, a place where the dynamics of positives and negatives shift in extremes," Boseman said of the university. "Almost anything can happen here. Howard’s legacy is not wrapped up in the money that you will make, but in the challenges that you choose to confront. As you honor your past, press on with purpose.”

On Saturday, the newsroom staff at Howard penned a tribute to the actor, calling him a "man of grace and humility, a deep thinker who had a deep passion for writing and uplifting his people."

They described Chadwick as not only a staunch supporter of social justice but also somebody who was willing to notice everyone in a room, someone who lived a life full of magnitude that inspired others to follow suit.

"Love is Life and he had an abundance of both," the memoriam read. "Boseman reminds us that the quality of life is not measured in time, but rather it is measured in how well we live it and what we prioritized. He prioritized his wife, his family, his friends, his craft, and loving others. The characters he portrayed will be celebrated but his greatest gift to us was himself. "

Brittany Ireland, who works at Howard and was there for his 2018 commencement speech, said that while Boseman graced screens as a legend, he was also one off-screen, taking time to shake hands with grads and interact with fans.

Boseman was 43 when he died in Los Angeles. Social media posts that confirmed his death said he was surrounded by loved ones.

In his commencement speech, he urged graduates to take a hold of the time they are given and to never give up.

"Purpose is the essential element of you," Boseman said in the middle of the speech. “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 fulfill. "

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