This weekend both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle addressed hopeful graduates at two of the nations most notable HBCUs.
Yesterday, President Obama addressed nearly 500 graduating men at Morehouse College. In his 30-minute speech, he hit several important notes—highlighting the importance of giving back to our community. He urged the men to remember where they came from even when they achieve major success. "So yes, go get that law degree," said the president. "But if you do, ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and powerful, or if you can also find time to defend the powerless. Sure, go get your MBA, or start that business, we need black businesses out there. But ask yourself what broader purpose your business might serve, in putting people to work, or transforming a neighborhood."
President Obama acknowledged he made poor choices in his young adulthood and warned graduates not to make the same mistakes. "Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a Black man down," he shared. "I had a tendency to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the past four years is, there's no longer any room for excuses."
Just a few days earlier, Mrs. Obama addressed graduates at Bowie State University, a school founded to train Black teachers. She used her short, but poignant, speech to highlight the importance of education to the 600 graduates. "We need to once again fight to educate ourselves and our children like our lives depend on it, because they do," she said after lecturing the audience on the school's history. "We need to dig deep and find the same kind of grit and determination that drove those first students at this school and generations of students who came after them."
Mrs. Obama believes everyone, no matter their chosen profession, shares in the responsibility of raising the educational standards in our community. "No matter what career you pursue, every single one of you has a role to play as educators for our young people," she shared. "So if you have friends or cousins or siblings who are not taking their education seriously, shake them up. Go talk some sense into them. Get them back on track. If the school in your neighborhood isn’t any good, don't just accept it. Get in there, fix it. Talk to the parents. Talk to the teachers. Get businesses and community leaders involved as well, because we all have a stake in building schools worthy of our children’s promise."
Check out President Obama's speech to Morehouse College above and Mrs. Obama's speech to Bowie State University below.