“No more excuses” Obama tells Morehouse graduates
By Kalin Thomas Contributing Writer | 5/24/2013, 11:43 a.m.
President Barack Obama told a crowd of nearly 500 Morehouse College graduates to make no more excuses for why they can’t succeed.
“One of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there’s no longer any room for excuses…Whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured,” said Obama.
He continued, “That’s what we’ve come to expect from you, Morehouse – a legacy of leaders – not just in our black community, but for the entire American community. To recognize the burdens you carry with you, but to resist the temptation to use them as excuses.”
Graduate Lonnie Sulliva, of Atlanta, said the speech was on point.
“That’s the quintessential thing we learn here at Morehouse is that we’re here now and there’s no more excuses. So once you leave here you’re expected to do great things,” said Sulliva, who is headed to Duke University Medical School.
The graduates, along with Morehouse officials, alumni and their families braved heavy rains throughout the ceremony, but everyone was in a celebratory mood – especially when Obama entered the stage to cheers and a standing ovation.
The audience laughed with the President when he started with a reference to the rain by saying, “I see [women] in their Sunday best…upset about their hair getting messed up.”
But putting jokes aside Obama said, “I am proud to stand before you as an honorary Morehouse Man”, before touching on some very serious points during his speech.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that too few of our brothers have the opportunities that you’ve had here at Morehouse….There are some things as black men we can only do for ourselves….As Morehouse Men you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you’re about to collect, and that’s the power of your example,” said Obama.
Noting that he didn’t have his own father at home, Obama said he wanted to break that cycle.
“Keep setting an example of what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife (or) your partner. Be the best father to your children,” he said to much applause – and a few groans on his referral to gay marriage.
The President also got applause when he talked about giving back to the community.
“The special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, who didn’t have the opportunities that I had…because there but for the grace of God go I,” he said.
This was the first time a sitting President has delivered a commencement address in Georgia since Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed graduates at the University of Georgia in 1938.
At Morehouse, Obama received an honorary doctorate of law degree. During his speech he made reference to several graduates who had overcome many challenges to graduate.
Dorian Joyner Sr. and Dorian Joyner Jr., who both worked a total of 110 hours a week while attending Morehouse, are two such graduates.
“I’m relieved to finally see this day. And I’m proud of my father because 20 years ago he was my age in school and had to drop out to take care of his family. But he was motivated by my brothers and I to go back to school,” said Joyner Jr., who received a BA in English and is headed to the Peace Corps.
Joyner Sr. said he’s proud of his son and noted he is heeding Obama’s words.
“The President said we must give back to the community to build what Dr. King called the ‘beloved community’,” said Joyner Sr. who received a BA in religion and plans to go on to law school.
Morehouse alumnus Dr. Calvin Mackie of New Orleans summed up the President’s speech this way, “It’s probably the realist speech he’s given in the last 10 years. He let us know that he’s definitely a black man and that he understands the issues we are facing in this country and the world. And the charge he gave us is one that men of all races need to hear.”