President Obama delivered the commencement speech at Morehouse this weekend, urging the graduates to use their degrees and ambitions to give back to the community and help the less fortunate.
According to Obama, the point is never to amass fancy cars and big houses. Meaningful work is work that enriches communities and betters people’s lives.
However, the speech has recieved a great deal of criticism for its elitist and condescending tone.
“So yes, go get that law degree. 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,” Obama declared. “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.”
“The most successful CEOs I know didn’t start out intent on making money – rather, they had a vision of how their product or service would change things, and the money followed,” he said.
For those headed to medical school, Obama said “make sure you heal folks in underserved communities who really need it, too.” He asked those headed to law school to think about defending the poor.
Obama also urged the young men in the audience to set a positive example for young people, and to remember the sacrifices of those who came before them.
Later, Obama cites the talented tenth, and asserts that , in the real world, “Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination”
I want you to set your sights higher. At the turn of the last century, W.E.B. DuBois spoke about the “talented tenth” – a class of highly-educated, socially-conscious leaders in the black community.
But it is not just the African-American community that needs you. The country needs you. The world needs you. See, as Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; to be marginalized; to feel the sting of discrimination. That’s an experience that so many other Americans share. Hispanic Americans know that feeling when someone asks where they come from or tells them to go back. Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love they share. Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work – she sure feels it.
“Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination.”
Thoughts on President Obama’s Morehouse commencement speech?
Did you find it problematic or profound?
What message would you send to this year’s college grads?
Sound off below!