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Thriving in ‘unpredictable challenges’

Kareem Abdul-JabbarKareem Abdul-Jabbar delivers the 2021 Commencement address on Francis Olympic Field. (James Byard/Washington University)


At the 160th Commencement — a Commencement like no other in the storied history of Washington University in St. Louis — National Basketball Association great and social justice advocate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told members of the Class of 2021 to write their own story — but to make sure it went beyond themselves.

“You are the authors of your next chapter and can be whoever and whatever you choose,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a recorded speech presented at eight Commencement ceremonies May 20 and 21. “I hope your story will include a few pages in which you went out into the world and demanded justice, demanded fair play, demanded equality for all people.”

It was a strong and passionate message, reflecting the unprecedented time in which the graduates lived and studied — including the past 14 months under a global pandemic and, as Chancellor Andrew D. Martin put it, “numerous tragedies on our ongoing quest for equity for all people, especially people of color.”Given that backdrop, Abdul-Jabbar’s remarks were both pointed, when they needed to be, and upbeat, with enough flashes of his trademark, ear-to-ear smile to endear himself to the crowd.

Read full story in The Source