Obama leads White House speakers for graduations

By Kalin Thomas Contributing Writer with contribution from D. Aileen Dodd | 5/17/2013, noon
As Atlanta University Center (AUC) students and faculty gear up for graduations, no school could be more excited than Morehouse ...
President Barack Obama

As Atlanta University Center (AUC) students and faculty gear up for graduations, no school could be more excited than Morehouse College where President Barack Obama is scheduled as the commencement speaker at 11 a.m. May 19.

The campus has been buzzing since the announcement was made in February by Morehouse president, John Wilson Jr.

Wilson said his years of service as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities didn’t hurt in helping him secure the President.

"He is very well aware of what a Morehouse man is." Wilson said of Obama.

"I think the fact that he is coming here is a testament to our generations of graduates who have made a wonderful mark on the world. One of his biggest heroes is Martin Luther King Jr."

Comparing Obama to King – a Morehouse graduate -- Dean Lawrence Carter Sr. said, “President Obama is the most recognized drum major for equal rights in the world.”

The founding dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel added, “And it’s wonderful that he is coming the same year that we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’”

Clark Atlanta University (CAU) and Spelman College will have two other politicos from the White House at their graduation ceremonies.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to President Obama; head of the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls; will give the commencement speech at CAU 8 a.m. May 20 at Panther Stadium.

“In Valerie Jarrett, our graduates will enjoy the wisdom of a powerful leader who has throughout her stellar career achieved political and economic gains through….her ability to bring diverse groups of people together and her keen ability to create solutions that transcend obstacles, barriers and limitations,” said CAU president Carlton Brown.

The New York Times named Jarrett, “the other power in the West Wing.”

U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin will deliver the commencement address for Spelman College 3 p.m. May 19 at the Georgia International Convention Center.

Two other types of presidents will be speaking at the graduation ceremonies for Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and Morris Brown College.

Freeman Hrabowski III; president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; will give the commencement speech for MSM 9 a.m. May 18 at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel on the campus of Morehouse College.

Hrabowski was recently named by President Obama to chair the newly created President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

A child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Hrabowski was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, “Four Little Girls” – about the racially motivated bombing in 1963 of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

While William Taggart, president and CEO of Atlanta Life Financial Group, will give the commencement speech for Morris Brown College 4 p.m. May 18 at Big Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Taggart is an Atlanta native and serves on the board of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and is a life member of the National Black MBA Association and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

Speaking about President Obama’s visit to Morehouse, Carter concluded, “We’ve had many exciting commencements speakers, but this is special because it’s the first time that a sitting President will give a commencement address at a Georgia college since Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at the University of Georgia in 1938.”

Morehouse will be streaming live at www.Morehouse.edu and the White House will stream President Obama’s speech only at www.TheWhiteHouse.gov. Spelman will also be streaming its graduation live at www.Spelman.edu.