President Obama Speaks at Morehouse

President Obama spoke at Morehouse College Commencement in Atlanta, May 19, 2013.
President Obama spoke at Morehouse College Commencement in Atlanta, May 19, 2013.
Credit Ryan Nabulsi / for WABE

President Obama was in Atlanta Sunday to give the commencement address to the 129th graduating class of Morehouse College. He spoke of the legacy of this historic black college for men and the many influential African Americans such as Martin Luther King Jr. who received their education at the school.Aleck Ragsdale has this report from the rain soaked ceremony.

The ceremony took place outside on Morehouse’s 66-acre campus. The thousands of people in attendance were required to arrive at least two hours before the ceremony began.

Heavy rains came and went during that wait, with the sea of people each wearing a clear emergency poncho they were given upon entry.

As if on cue, the rains started back up as soon as President Obama took to the podium, “You all are gonna get wet. I would be out there with you if I could, but the Secret Service gets nervous.”

The President proceeded to discuss the roots of Morehouse going back to freed black slaves who wanted to better themselves so they could teach others to do the same. He also spoke of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., who graduated from Morehouse in 1948.

“And over the last 50 years, thanks to the moral force of Dr. King and a Moses generation that overcame their fear and their cynicism, and their despair, barriers have come tumbling down, and new doors of opportunity have swung open.”

That message resonated with 22-year-old Adrian Evans. Evans says this commencement was the perfect culmination to his Morehouse experience.

“It was amazing. I sat in the second row. I didn’t even think I would be that close, but it was just amazing. I felt the connection that I’ve never had with the president, but I’ve always wanted. It was really that moment; it was indescribable, honestly.”

Fellow graduate 24-year-old Branford Savage connected with Obama’s message of assisting people in all walks of life.

I definitely appreciated the fact that he wants us to not only be concerned with the African American community, but other communities as well. I definitely feel like for our world, and for this United States to move on in a positive light, we have to get along, understand each other, and respect each other as individuals and as human beings.”

Savage and Evans were among the 500 black men who graduated from Morehouse Sunday. President Obama said any obstacles that stem from being in a minority group shouldn’t be met with excuses. That anyone who has felt discrimination in their lives needs to harness that difficulty and channel it into a becoming a more enlightened person.

“So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy. The understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes.”

Alumni of Morehouse consider themselves to be a part of an upstanding and respectable brotherhood known as “Morehouse Men”. And as the thunder cracked, the president echoed this ideal.

  “Members of the class of 2013, you are heirs to a great legacy. You have within you that same courage and that same strength. The same resolve as the men who came before you. That’s what being a Morehouse Man is all about. That’s what being an American is all about. Success may not come quickly or easily, but if you strive to do what’s right; if you work harder and dream bigger, if you strive to set an example and do your part to meet the challenges of our times, then I’m confident that together we will continue the never ending task of perfecting our union.”

During the ceremony President Obama was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Morehouse, making him an official Morehouse Man.


You can watch President Obama’s speech to the graduates at Morehouse College above in its entirety via YouTube.com.  It can also be downloaded as an MP4 video (1,208 MB) or as an MP3 audio file (77 MB) from WhiteHouse.gov. A transcript of the speech is also available at WhiteHouse.gov.