In one of more profound commencement speeches of his presidency, President Barack Obama told the 2016 graduates of Howard Univerisity to own their blackness and never question the power they possess.
CBS News reports the president’s 45-minute speech consisted of the power of change, voting and most importantly the idea of pushing forward African-American heritage. “Be confident in your heritage. Be confident in your blackness,” he said. “Create your own style, set your own standard of beauty, embrace your own sexuality. Because you’re a black person — doing whatever it is that you’re doing — that makes it a black thing! Or,” the president continued, “as my daughters tell me all the time: ‘You be you, Daddy.'”
For the majority of his presidency, Obama faced critics who claimed he denied his own blackness or wasn’t “black enough.” Lightly discussing his triumphs in the White House, Obama cited that his presidential win didn’t create the post-racial society many academics credit him for. He did however, claim race relations have shifted by crediting black women such as Beyonce, Shonda Rhimes and the growth of those in the business world for making history in their respective fields.
“Race relations are better since I graduated — that’s the truth,” he said. “No, my election did not create a post-racial society,” he joked. “I don’t know who was propagating that notion – that wasn’t mine. We’re CEOs, we’re mayors, representatives. President of the United States.”
Obama also discussed the problems that still persist in the country like the gender wage gap, mass incarceration and education. He stressed voting is one of many ways to change the spectrum of the free world.
“You have to go through life with more than just a passion for change — you have to have strategy,” he explained. “Not just awareness but action, not just hashtags but votes.”
Check out the full speech below.