Over the years, this blog has covered some of the speeches of President Barack Obama given to black audiences. The blog author took exception to them because without fail the President used the opportunity to lash black people under the guise of being of assistance. Mentions of good things would be negated with withering criticism.
- At Morehouse (a one of the United States’ historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
- At the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (or NAACP) convention in 2009.
With this in my mind, when the President announced that he was to give a commencement address at another HBCU–Howard University in Washington, D.C.–I was skeptical as to what the President would do with such an opportunity.
To my great relief and delight, the President’s speech was exceptional–personal and fatherly. Even the critiques were in the tone of offering not only an alternative view but also a constructive way forward.
I recommend reading this speech in its entirety (video available at http://www.whur.com/podcasts/webcasts/howard-university-commencement-2016/ (as of the date of writing of this post)), but I will provide some of the speech’s broad points.
- Be confident in your heritage and blackness. (It is always nice to hear people affirm one’s identity positively, especially from a President who shares that identity.)
- Black people have to be aware of injustice, unfairness, and struggle, for black people and for other vulnerable populations, including white people who also suffer from the backlash of the recession.
- There is a need for a passion for change and also a strategy of achieving that change. In addition, people have to vote consistently. (Without question, turnout should be near 100%)
- Change requires more than speaking but also listening to those with whom you disagree. In discussions about change be open to compromise–a compromise that may fall short of the absolute expectation but gets the process started toward that expectation (as its goal).
- (This is the blog author’s interpretation of this section.) [In terms of people coming to colleges to speak with disagreeable views, students should attend such talks in a respectful manner, but also take notes and use the speech to fuel further research. Should research lead to questions, write a letter, blog post, column to the university student paper about it. I will say a well-formed letter assists the writer with learning but also adds to the debate and refutation of error. These talks should be seen as an opportunity for growth.]