President Barack Obama gave the commencement speech at the only all male historically black institution of higher education in the United States, Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. President Obama could have made his speech about anything he wanted, but he choose to make a call to personal responsibility the foundation of the speech, which says a lot to those who are bothering to pay attention.
Obama said that too many young black men make “bad choices.”
“Growing up, I made quite a few myself,” Obama said. “Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency to make excuses for me not doing the right thing.”
But, the president implored, “we’ve got no time for excuses.”
Too many young black men make bad choices. We’ve got no time for excuses.
Like I already wrote, the message is clear for those that are listening: There will be no new programs designed to help black men, black women, children, or black people in general; whatever future gains individual blacks will lay hold to, those gains will come from individual effort and achievement. President Obama has already said he is “not the President of Black America,” he is the President of the United States of America.
In the Morehouse speech Obama paid lip service to the usual platitudes about racism and discrimination, but he also tempered his acknowledgement of the harsh reality that America is not yet a completely fair and equal society with the admonishment that such harsh realities can no longer be used as an excuse for young black men to not succeed:“In today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil, many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did, all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned,” he said. “Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination.”
Nobody cares if you suffered discrimination.
Most poignantly, the President told the graduates not to shirk their family responsibilities. The overwhelming majority of black children will not grow up spending the majority of their youth in a married household. And being raised in a household by a single mother may actually be worse for boys than for girls. In the end, the only way to reverse the cycle of family disintegration and it’s negative effects on all family members is for more black men (and black women!) to be raised in two-parent households and for individual black people to excel on their own merits–and even the President of the United States of America has said as much.
Watch the entire speech below.
Jamila Akil is a senior Editor at Beyond Black and White. Follow her on Twitter @jamilaakil