President Barack H. Obama, the first African American president of the United States, gives the commencement address at Morehouse College today, which is also the birthday of Malcolm X.
Think about that for a second.
*UPDATE: Video added below (h/t @TheObamaDiary)*
Hello, Morehouse! Thank you Dr. Wilson, the Board of Trustees; Congressman Cedric Richmond and Sanford Bishop – both proud alumni of this school; Congressman Hank Johnson and the great John Lewis; Mayor Reed, and all the members of the Morehouse family. Most of all, congratulations to this distinguished group of Morehouse Men, the Class of 2013! Some of you are graduating summa cum laude, some of you are graduating magna cum laude, and I know some of you are just graduating, “thank you Lordy.”
I see some good looking hats on the moms and grandmas here today. Which is appropriate, since we’re here on Sunday, and folks are in their Sunday best. Congratulations to all of you – the parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, family and friends who supported these young men in so many ways. This is your day, too. Just think about it – your sons and brothers have spent the last four years far from home and close to Spelman. And they still made it here today. So you must be doing something right. Graduates, give them a round of applause.
I know some of you had to wait in long lines to get into today’s ceremony. I would apologize, but it didn’t actually have anything to do with security. These graduates just wanted you to know what it’s like to register for classes. And this time of year brings a different kind of stress, with every senior stopping by Gloster Hall over the past week making sure your name was on the list of students who’ve met all the graduation requirements. If it wasn’t, you had to figure out why. Was it the library book you let your roommate borrow freshman year? Was it Dr. Johnson’s policy class? Did you get enough Crown Forum credits?
I can help with that last one. Today, I am exercising my power as President to declare this speech sufficient Crown Forum credits for any otherwise-eligible student to graduate. Consider it my graduation gift to you.
Graduates, I am humbled to stand here with all of you as an honorary Morehouse Man. And as I do, I’m mindful of an old saying: “You can always tell a Morehouse Man, but you can’t tell him much.” That makes my task today a little more difficult, I suppose. But I think it also reflects the sense of pride that has always been a part of the Morehouse tradition.
Benjamin Mays, who served as the president of Morehouse for almost 30 years, understood that tradition perhaps better than anyone. He said, “It will not be sufficient for Morehouse College, for any college, for that matter, to produce clever graduates… but rather honest men, men who can be trusted in public and private life – men who are sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society and who are willing to accept responsibility for correcting [those] ills.”
It was that mission – not just to educate men, but to cultivate good men – that brought community leaders together just two years after the end of the Civil War. They assembled a list of 37 men, free blacks and freed slaves, who would make up the first prospective class of what later became Morehouse College. Most of those first students had a desire to become teachers and preachers – to better themselves so they could help others do the same.
A century and a half later, times have changed. But the “Morehouse Mystique” endures. Some of you probably came here from communities where everyone looked like you. Others may have come here in search of that kind of community. And I suspect that some of you probably felt a little bit of culture shock the first time you came together as a class in King’s Chapel. All of a sudden, you weren’t the only high school sports captain or student council president. All of a sudden, among a group of high achievers, you were expected to be something more.
That’s the unique sense of purpose that has always infused this place – the conviction that this is a training ground not only for individual success, but for leadership that can change the world.
READ THE FULL SPEECH HERE.