Obama addressed the historically black college Sunday (May 19) in the midst of a heavy rain storm. His light-hearted diction warranted laughter at times and applause during others. His speech resonated with attendees, often referencing former Morehouse administrators and graduates including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who Obama jested probably wasn’t the coolest kid on campus at the time. Yet, his education at the school would “help forge the intellect, discipline and compassion to later transform America,” the President noted.
Obama called on the graduates to use their power to stand for something larger than themselves. Urging them to “be sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society” and to be “willing to accept responsibility for correcting (those) ills.” Throughout the speech, which lasted over 30 minutes, Obama candidly addressed race, inclusively discussing the direction African-American men must take in the changing society.
“There are some things, as black men, we can only do for ourselves. There are some things, as Morehouse Men, that you are obliged to do for those still left behind,” he said. “As Morehouse Men, you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you’re about to collect—and that’s the power of your example.”
Obama’s second commencement address of the year was an opportunity for the nation’s first African-American President to speak to over 500 graduates, who will each enter into a workforce where black unemployment currently stands at 13.2 percent, almost double the nation’s (7.5) overall average. —Christopher Harris