Paul Robeson is one of Rutgers University’s most distinguished alumni and an enduring symbol of human dignity and freedom. In 2019, Rutgers marks the centennial anniversary of Robeson's graduation from Rutgers College, recognizing his achievements as a scholar, athlete, actor, singer, and global activist. The third black student to attend Rutgers, “Robey” faced and overcame many challenges to excel as an athlete and as an extraordinary scholar who was valedictorian of his graduating class.
At Convocation, we invoked Robeson’s spirit by showing this video and quoting his valedictory speech from June 1919, when he stood before the audience assembled for the Rutgers College graduation to deliver his address: “The New Idealism.” He opened by thanking recent World War I veterans for forging a “new American spirit,” one that he charged his audience to embrace by joining him in this “fight for the great principles for which they contended, until in all sections of this fair land there will be equal opportunities for all, and character shall be the standard of excellence . . . until black and white shall clasp friendly hands.”