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Howard University's commencement ceremony moves to Capital One Arena due to inclement weather

With the venue change and security screenings for President Biden's commencement speech, families faced logistical challenges.

WASHINGTON — Howard University's Class of 2023 had a graduation to remember on Saturday, after a road to the diploma that was anything but smooth.

Graduate Zionna Green spent most of the past four years at home, studying remotely, because of the health threat.

"I'm thinking how difficult it was and how much I had to go through with sickness, and then dealing with classes on top of it," said Green. "So it's really a full circle moment that I get to be here today, especially with honors too, I didn’t really expect that I would do that."

The graduation ceremony itself was marked by changes and some challenges when it was moved from campus to the Capital One Arena due to the threat of thunderstorms. The class learned of the change on Thursday. Families had to adhere to the arena's no-bags policy and navigate the way to the arena, with limited parking.

"I felt bad for people who at the last minute had to make different changes," said Pam Morton, whose great-niece was graduating. "My daughter and my grandson came, but they didn’t end up coming down here because she thought it would be too much of a hassle to bring the baby."

Some students weren't thrilled about the choice of President Joe Biden as commencement speaker, and the extensive security screening that went with it.

"I just feel like since we’re an HBCU, we were expecting someone who could really relate to being black in America or going to an HBCU," said graduate Nia Ollivierre. "But I still feel that Joe has an influence on us that will be respected."

"I think it’s more important for families to enjoy their graduate rather than everything to be centered around the President," said Morton. "I mean I like Joe Biden, don’t get me wrong. But I just think in a situation like this, what's most important is celebrating the graduate, and being able to have the families come together and not have all these restrictions."

Whatever the challenges, graduates were ready to celebrate.

"I'm feeling relieved that it's finished and that I accomplished it but I'm looking forward to the future and what else I can do," said Ollivierre.

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