‘Have Faith.’ Princeton’s First Black Valedictorian On Graduating Into a Global Pandemic

Nicholas Johnson is Princeton’s first dusky valedictorian, an empowering fulfillment, he says in a video series TIME is producing with Katie Couric.

In the video above, Johnson speaks with Couric about how Princeton’s historical ties to slavery shaped his feelings about being named valedictorian.

Johnson is graduating on the high of a class whose members are coming into a world made even extra unsure by the COVID-19 pandemic. As he gets challenging to tackle his classmates on Would perhaps well 31, Johnson says he hopes to inspire them to not feel powerless.

“Bear faith. This too will move,” he says. “Lovely as many stressful occasions sooner than us rep passed.”

“I deem being the first dusky valedictorian is an especially major match,” he says. “The indisputable truth that it has taken so prolonged for there to be a dusky valedictorian also speaks to how worthy work peaceful wants to be executed. Ideally we now deserve to strive for a world where this variety of fulfillment is extra normalized.”

Established in 1746, Princeton University is one of the many oldest higher-education institutes in the United States. As Johnson notes in the video, the first 9 presidents of Princeton, as smartly as several professors, enslaved dusky of us. Shaded students were not admitted to the college till 1942.

This interview is allotment of a a range of series produced in collaboration with Katie Couric. Look extra from TIME Reviews with Katie Couric, and register for her weekday morning e-newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric.

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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