WASHINGTON, D.C. – Howard University is known universally as the “Mecca.” With the clout and reputation of turning out game-changing scholars, business leaders, aspiring political scions, as well as heralded entertainment figures, Howard is used to name-dropping about who is strolling around on the campus and why they were there. NBC anchor Lester Holt is about as big as they come in delivering political news.
In September, during the 151st Opening Convocation, Holt challenged students at Howard University to engage their critical thinking skills, step outside of ideological comfort zones, and tap the brakes on stories too good to be true.
“There are always going to be things that divide us,” Holt said. “Don’t be afraid of a healthy debate. Be smart. Don’t shoot from the hip. Shoot from the brain armed with facts and knowledge.”
Holt was named “NBC Nightly News” anchor in 2015. He is the first African American on any major network to serve as the solo anchor of a weekday evening newscast. In his remarks, Holt described a free and independent press as a critical pillar of U.S. democracy, but said the health of journalism depended on engaged news consumers.
“I think we are all programmed to believe stories that confirm our beliefs,” Holt said. “We can’t be afraid to tap the brakes on stores that are too good to be true. The aim of mainstream journalism is not to make you feel good. What we set out to do is to tell you about the world as accurately as we can. Sometimes it’s going to directly challenge your sensibility.”
The Opening Convocation at Howard University is a time-honored tradition, officially signaling the start of the academic year. The ceremony is a welcoming event for new students and an opportunity to recognize recent achievements at the University. This year, the University enrolled about 1,600 freshmen.
“Opening Convocation is an opportunity to reflect on how consequential the school year will be, not only for shaping our own lives but also for emphasizing our significance to this country and the world,” Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said.
Dr. Frederick pointed to progress in boosting the University’s four-year graduation rate as well as a near 30 percent improvement in undergraduate applications. In addition, Howard University rose 21 spots to No. 89 on the U.S. News & World Report best universities list.
Last year, Howard University celebrated its 150th anniversary. Dr. Frederick encouraged students to reflect upon and embrace the institution’s motto of trust and service.
“We have come here today to remind America of the purpose of higher education and to double down on our promise to seek truth and mission above all else,” he said.