Howard University’s class of 2014 got a lot livelier and excited on May 10 when superstar music mogul and entrepreneur Sean Combs delivered the 146th commencement address. Combs, who received an honorary doctorate in humanities, shared insights about his time at Howard and moved the crowd in a heartfelt speech about the numerous possibilities that await the graduates once they realize how powerful they are.

“I want to ask you a quick question; do you know how powerful you are,” Combs inquired. “Our stories may be different, but I bet some of you grew up with single mothers or fathers. Maybe you came here from Africa, or the Caribbean. Maybe you were the first in your family to go to college like I was. Maybe there were times that you didn’t have a place to live or enough food to eat.”

Dressed in traditional all-black graduation regalia, Combs said even though the odds may have been against him, and he was sure the students could relate, he made a decision to overcome those odds.

He implored the graduates to take the craziest dream they’d ever had, the one they were too embarrassed to share and go after it. “You will change the world, let that sink in,” Combs reiterated. “You will change the world.”

Combs encouraged the graduates to embrace the Howard family network because Howard became his second family as well. “It was my Howard friends who looked out for me when I didn’t have any money for food. It was my Howard professors who supported my risky decision to take a once in a lifetime opportunity and work at Uptown MCA records under the legendary Andre Harrell.”

As chairman, CEO and founder of Combs enterprises, Combs leads one of the world’s preeminent urban entertainment companies. Just as music marked the beginning and continues to tug at the heart of his career, the man who is mostly known as P. DDiddy is also recognized as the creator of RevoltTV. RevoltTV, in partnership with Comcast made its debut in 2013. It is the first multi-genre, multi-platform music network built using social media.

As more than 2,600 enthusiastic students listened, Combs shared that he was raised by a single mother who worked four jobs to ensure that he and his sister could want for nothing, especially when he chose to seek higher learning. It was at Howard that he learned the real reason behind the course of his father’s death.

Combs said he lost his father when he just three years old.

When he would ask his mother about his father, his mother would tell him that his father died in a car accident.

“Something about that just didn’t feel right,” he said about his mother’s explanation.

“So as soon as I got here, I went to the library; I did some research,” said Combs.

“And when I typed in my father’s name and the day he died. I read in the Amsterdam News that he had been murdered in a drug deal gone bad.”

It was that moment that Combs decided to live his life in a way that would make his mother proud by embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of his father. “But in a honest way, in a legal way,” he emphasized.

Comb’s also used the platform to lend his voice to the international call to bring back the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls. He urged that the already popular hashtag campaign “#BringBackOurGirls,” be elevated to “#BringBackOurGirlsNow.”

“We have so much power in here I think we need to step up the hashtag. All I want to say is bring back our girls now,” he said.


Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO