President Obama was invited to Morehouse University, a Historically Black College / University to deliver the commencement. What he said is here, from the Wall Street Journal.
Overall, I believe the President delivered a great speech, very relevant. However; the President also spoke to “individual responsibility”, and this rubbed some African Americans and some HBCU Alumni wrong.
I have listened to arguments from both sides, and have read the speech for myself and have come to some conclusions. Do I think the President was “talking down” to African Americans for the benefit of the White people who were listening, proving that he could have tough talk for lazy Black men…absolutely not. In fact, I wonder if the people who were complaining actually read the speech or just excerpts of it? Here is on excerpt that I read that I have heard no one talk about:
“But along with collective responsibilities, we have individual responsibilities. 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. 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.
So what I ask of you today is the same thing I ask of every graduating class I address: Use that power for something larger than yourself. Live up to President Mays’s challenge. Be “sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society.” And be “willing to accept responsibility for correcting (those) ills.”
I know that some of you came to Morehouse from communities where life was about keeping your head down and looking out for yourself. Maybe you feel like you escaped, and now you can take your degree and get that fancy job and the nice house and the nice car — and never look back. And don’t get me wrong — with all those student loans you’ve had to take out, I know you’ve got to earn some money. With doors open to you that your parents and grandparents could not even imagine, no one expects you to take a vow of poverty. But I will say it betrays a poverty of ambition if all you think about is what goods you can buy instead of what good you can do.”
I believe that sums up the purpose of this speech, and needs no defense from me. The President was calling to arms these young Black academics to stand up for the Black community and not just be about themselves.
Bravo to Preisdent Obama, folks whose feelings were hurt, need to get over themselves.