Durham, North Carolina – Recording artist John Legend encouraged graduates to strengthen their communities during his keynote address at Duke University on Sunday.
Legend is one of 16 people in the world to achieve EGOT status, which means he’s won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. He also made Duke history by being the first EGOT winner to speak at the start.
“Bring your own unique gifts to the table to engage in the real, tangible improvement of your community,” Legend told Brooks Field graduates at Wallace Wade Stadium. “There is wisdom, strength and power in community. You learned it here at Duke. But don’t forget it when you create community elsewhere.”
The caption also encouraged the graduates to “embrace our common humanity”.
“Our nation is at its best when we realize we all do better when we all do better,” he said.
The legend also acknowledged the unique challenges the class faced on graduating during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have so few moments to enjoy these rites of passage. Today is one of those times, and of course, after a year where we could barely come together, it takes on special significance,” said Legend. “Let’s recognize the elephant in the stands: your class has lost a lot – jobs, loved ones, a year of those little moments that make college so special.”
When he wasn’t behind the podium, Legend was still talking about what’s going on in North Carolina and the country with turmoil, racial justice and local government innovation.
Durham Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson tweeted that Legend spent an hour chatting with her and other city leaders on the topics.
These behind-the-scenes discussions carried over into his speech as he challenged graduates to do more to help others.
“Class 2021, Duke has invested you with all kinds of tools and resources, and I ask you to use them in the name of our democracy and our interdependence on each other,” Legend said.
Legend also received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony.