Morehouse ObamaPresident Barack Obama delivered a rousing, but controversial, commencement address at Morehouse College Sunday. The prestigious historical black college for men of color welcomed the first African-American president to its campus by offering him an honorary doctorate as well as the stage.

More than 500 attendees, including the graduates and their families, sat in the rain to hear the sitting president speak. One of his most poignant remarks was:

I know some of you came to Morehouse from communities where life was about keeping your head down and looking out for yourself. Maybe you feel like you escaped, and you can take your degree, get a fancy job and never look back. And don’t get me wrong – with the heavy weight of student loans, with doors open to you that your parents and grandparents could scarcely imagine, no one expects you to take a vow of poverty. But I will say it betrays a poverty of ambition if all you think about is what goods you can buy instead of what good you can do. So yes, go get that law degree. But ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and powerful, or if you can also find time to defend the powerless. Yes, go get your MBA, or start that business. 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.

However, his references to famed Morehouse alum Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did little to quiet the rumblings of Black Twitter. Many tweeters were disappointed with Obama’s decision to use W.E.B. DuBois’ “talented tenth” rhetoric within his speech.

Obama said:

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.

Several tweeters viewed Obama’s remarks as elitist and an attempt to speak at the graduates rather than speaking to them.

Some were also disappointed with Obama’s “no excuses” mantra, noting the inequalities people of color with degrees face in the American job market.

You now hail from a lineage and legacy of immeasurably strong men – men who bore tremendous burdens and still laid the stones for the path on which we now walk. You wear the mantle of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, Ralph Bunche and Langston Hughes, George Washington Carver and Ralph Abernathy, Thurgood Marshall and yes, Dr. King. These men were many things to many people. They knew full well the role that racism played in their lives. But when it came to their own accomplishments and sense of purpose, they had no time for excuses.

I’m sure every one of you has a grandma, an uncle, or a parent who’s told you at some point in life that, as an African-American, you have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by. I think President Mays put it even better: “Whatever you do, strive to do it so well that no man living and no man dead, and no man yet to be born can do it any better.” I promise you, what was needed in Dr. Mays’ time, that spirit of excellence, and hard work, and dedication, is needed now more than ever. If you think you can get over in this economy, just because you have a Morehouse degree, you are in for a rude awakening. But if you stay hungry, keep hustling, keep on your grind and get other folks to do the same – nobody can stop you.

This isn’t the first time Obama has been criticized for sharing different messages with black and white audiences. Several dissenters also conveyed similar sentiments about his speech in Chicago.

Weigh in Clutchettes. How did you feel about Obama’s Morehouse commencement speech?

  • Joan

    Did he actually say “keep hustling” and “keep on your grind”? *SIGH* LOL. Reminds me of things white speakers are told to say to try to relate to a black audience. SMH…So condescending.

  • London

    There is nothing wrong with what he said. He used the teachings of W.E.B Dubois to convey the message to young black educated men that they have a responsibility to come back to the black community (as teachers, mentors, etc) to help other youngsters out of poverty through education and apprenticeship. That’s all!! Obama is right. Our community is experiencing such a brain drain. Those who leave to achieve better opportunities don’t come back, and our youth are left thinking that being educated means “being white,” and that college is a waste of time and money. They only see success in the form of entertainment because the only black men who are talking to them are rappers (about nonsense) and athletes. They need to see success in other forms and the need to be shown a map on how to obtain it.

    This was a great speech. It’s sad that many blacks don’t see the truth in it because they get caught up in words like “talented tenth,” and it makes the feel uncomfortable. Another commenter said it best in another post when she said that blacks are becoming “overly sensitive” to every little issue. I couldn’t have put it better myself. We need to choose our battles more wisely.

  • Sasha

    I wonder if the same people displeased with what Obama said are doing anything to better their own communities. It’s easy to sit behind a computer screen and criticize others but what was so wrong with what he said? Get over yourselves people.

  • AB

    As I expected, the part the media seems to be running with is the “Stop playing the race card” message. I wish that the President would be as vocal about the systemic racial inequalities that still exist. By focusing on only one side of the argument, he gives credence to the post-racial myth that so many white liberals and conservatives are anxious to hold onto.

    I also thought it was interesting that people kept insinuating that Morehouse as an institution had a prominent role in the freedom struggle. In reality, university administrators at Morehouse and other colleges in the area (and Atlanta’s black elite in general) were often vehemently opposed to student activism. Now that the coast is clear, I guess everyone stood with Dr. King, huh.

  • London

    “This isn’t the first time Obama has been criticized for sharing different messages with black and white audiences”

    Well, of course his message should be different. C’mon black people! Whites are not encountering the same problems at the high level we are encountering them when it comes to high unemployment, poor education, poverty, violence, racial discrimination, etc, etc. Our experiences are different. Therefore, the President’s speech has to be different when addressing each group.

    I have a feeling If Obama had the same speech for white audiences and black audiences everyone would accuse him of being shallow, and not addressing the needs of the community.

  • ArabellaMichaela

    I have found myself thinking increasingly often since the second election that President Obama is honestly clueless as to what’s going on in this country, the state of the economy and the declining state of Black America at all levels. If he thinks black graduates can “choose” to be insulated from this abysmal economy that will target them more, as blacks, then he really needs to get a clue, read newspapers or something. The mostly white staff he insulates himself with is not helping him. I also sense that his most loyal constituents are getting a bit fed up with him. At this point, people are just hoping that he does no harm. By the time he leaves office, the “Talented Ten percent” may very well be the talented five percent. Unfortunately, the President would probably be “surprised” to hear this.

  • rastaman

    I don’t always agree with President Obama but I applaud him for this speech athe the Morehouse graduation. If his presidency is not enough evidence of what this society holds out for black men then maybe in his speech he needed to re-iterate it. Here is a man at the pinnacle of success but who is still being challenged everyday as if he has never done a damn thing to get where he is at and what is obvious to many of us is the level of disrespect he faces comes down to only one thing, the color of his skin. But at no point in his presidency has ever publicly used that as an excuse to not keep on his “grind”.

    Whether you agree with Obama or not politically, you have to give him props for living what he believes. There are far too many commencement speakers who pump up graduates with rhetoric as if they are unaware of the challenges that face them in the working world. What I got from the president’s speech yesterday was a good deal of real talk and I am from the camp of telling me the truth rather than telling me what I want to hear. The former might hurt my feelings initailly but I am certain i will be thankful for teh latter in the long run.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    face it. obama does not respect the black community…..

  • ImJustSaying

    His message is clear.
    To Black / African Americans (whatever you choose to call your self)
    YES we face unfair discrimination and things are not as easily gained because of it but if we chose to TRY EVEN HARDER instead of COMPLAINING LOUDER we could change the game for everybody. Our ancestors faced much worse and pressed on so that we could benefit. Some of us use the racial injustice roadblock as a challenge to run,push, climb,crawl continually FORWARD. Some of us use it as an excuse to STOP MOVING.

    To White people
    YES we need a different message BECAUSE we face unfair discrimination and things are not as easily gained because of it. The world we live in is NOT POST-RACIAL and stereotypes and prejudices still effect the doors that are opened to AA’s and other people of color. The scales were never even and it’s important that everyone of all colors COME TOGETHER in order to “balance” them.

  • Ms. Information

    No mention of Malcolm X or Garvery…the president is such a kiss ass.

  • Njvamd

    My mother went to Spean during the civil rights era and her and her fellow students did in fact participate in the struggle. Please get your facts straight!

  • Ms. Information


  • Dan

    “There is nothing wrong with what he said. He used the teachings of W.E.B Dubois to convey the message to young black educated men that they have a responsibility to come back to the black community (as teachers, mentors, etc) to help other youngsters out of poverty through education and apprenticeship.” W.E.B. Dubois? One of the biggest sellouts in history? SMH. Nothing more to say.

  • Smilez_920

    I think the people complaint about this speech didn’t read it fully. Obama give the most appropriate ” real talk” he could to those young men. He let them know that while they have and will experience discrimination , you ain’t let that discourage you. He talked about how the black me before them helped paved the way and how they started in an even worse environment then these current Morehouse graduates. He spoke about how the global community is now becoming a part of our economy and how black students have already been told they have to work 2 times as hard as their other colleagues. He talked about giving back to the community and how he can’t do it alone. What else do ppl want.

  • Joan

    I see what you are saying and I agree with a lot of it. (One of your “thumbs up” is from me.) However, to me, it just seems that when Obama speaks to a black audience, there’s no hesitation to be blunt and “tell it like it is.” But when he speaks to a white audience, there seems to be so much more care taken not to make them too uncomfortable. It seems to be okay for him to go HAM on black audiences but humble himself for white ones. Just as he would say to a black audience that there are no excuses even though you face racial discrimination, he’d never say to white audience, “You know, there are many of you out there who discriminate against people who look different than you, have different sexual preferences than you and are of the opposite sex. Maybe it’s time to stop making excuses for why you think it’s okay to hold others back.” He’d never go there. Ironically, the larger, wealthier white audiences who will be inheriting most of the power and all of the things that go along with having white skin privilege need to hear a blunt message most.

  • Lynn

    President Obama’s speech didn’t cause controversy with anyone other than the same ones that think his being President is the actual controversy…and those people really shouldn’t count.

  • D. Michele

    London, you are seriously SPOT ON! I agree!

  • Lynn

    And exactly why would he mention them during a speech to the graduating class of Morehouse College? He also didn’t mention Jack Johnson, Cripus Attucks or Mary Mother of Jesus

  • LReamon

    Clutch should really be ashamed of this tactic. Trying to get clicks on the cheap like this is pretty telling.

  • kathryn

    I thought it was an excellent speech. I feel like folks are just looking for something to get upset about. I think African American professionals do have a greater responsibility beyond just making money for ourselves, we should try and use the advantages we have to help those in our community that continue to struggle. Being Black in America is definitely a cross to bear, but we shouldn’t make excuses. Yes we face discrimination but I think he addressed that when he said AA still have to work twice as hard to be thought of as equal. We are not in a post-racial America and just because Obama is in the White House doesn’t mean he can snap his fingers and change the fundamental nature of American society.

    P.S. It would be helpful to know where this criticism is coming from rather than the reliance on “some people have said….”

  • Clutch
  • Ms. Information

    Let me articulate myself better….he mentioned those who the white media would not be able to blast him for mentioning….in essence Obama told the best of what we have that America needs them, not black America, where we need them the MOST. Every other “talented tenth” in other races go back to help others. Jews hire Jews, Italians hire Italians…this is how other races sustain themselves…we are the only ones DEPENDANT on whites for our own survival…it is sad. The talented tenth should be encouraged to create businesses to help the HUGE amount of blacks who are unemployed. Get it? Good.

  • MommieDearest

    The only issue I have with his speech is the second section highlighted in this article:

    “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.”

    Why did he feel it necessary to bring up the struggles of other groups, whom he as already championed for, at a graduation for young black people? Does anyone honestly think that he would admonish Hispanics, Muslims, gays, women, etc.. to take special care to look out for black people because “they need you.”? Let me clearly state that I do not have a problem with any of the aforementioned groups themselves, but I think the President was being opportunistic. Why couldn’t he just let the moment belong to the young black men that were being honored and not bring others into it? Why is it always US who have to bend over backwards to accomodate others?

  • Taylor

    This speech was exactly what a commencement speech is supposed to be. Generally speaking, it is supposed to inspire graduates to work harder and be better people. In the bigger picture, the president did address some of the challenges black graduates will face because of their race and background. But the key is not to focus on the challenges and the likelihood of failure, but how you are supposed to overcome them. Its not a state of the black union address. Did the criticizers of the speech really expect him to paint a picture of all the ways in which black communities are failing? Citing dismal statistics that compare blacks to whites and focusing on the dysfunctional black communities are? A graduation ceremony is not the time nor the place for that discussion.

  • Ms Write

    I don’t see what is wrong with this speech. Damned if you do or damned if you don’t. I think people can’t seperate their personal feelings about his presidency from the speech. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water…

  • AB

    With all due respect, I said that “university administrators” opposed the struggle, and often threatened student activists with expulsion. Fortunately, many students participated in spite of their resistance. You tried it though.

  • Elyse

    He’s the president. He can say, “I like apples,” and people will say, “Well what about oranges?!?” lol. Everything he says will cause controversy.

  • akismet-e30cd62e195288bfe3894a340a0f4b0f

    If you honestly think W.E.B. Dubois was a sellout, you need to read more of his work, or at least read it more carefully, or heck, look at Wikipedia. The US refused to renew his passport in 1963–when he was in his 90s–because of his political leanings. The man was a civil rights activist his entire adult life.

  • Ms Write

    Hi Clutch! :-) Keep doing what you are doing and don’t feed the trolls…

  • B

    Can’t black people just get a commencement speech saying they did a good job? Miss me with all the bull about blaming the white man for personal failings. Some of this speech must be left over from his “take off your bedroom slippers” NAACP or Chicago Father’s Day speech.. This day was about black men graduating from college. This was a day of celebration not admonishment.

  • Joan

    Besides myself, I know a lot of black people who have done (before Obama what ever even elected or heard of) and/or are doing plenty for their own communities, but are critical of the president. I am glad he’s in office; I even voted for him. However, I would love to see him address his audiences more equally. It seems to be okay for him to lecture black people about how they can do better (which is often justified), but to rarely address the people with the most power in society about how they could do better. Those speeches tend to be much more watered down. The set that he grows that gives him the courage to be blunt with the black audience tends to shrivel up and recede when he goes before a white audience.

  • ….

    @ ms information. I agree. I didn’t want to be a “Debbie downer” but when he was mentioning other groups I couldn’t help but think,”Do these groups of people try to help us”?I mean I’m pretty sure that when these other groups congregate (especially Hispanics) that they are not discussing what black people need and trying to figure out how to help with these needs.

  • Joan

    Thank you.

  • BeanBean

    Why is this speech considered controversial? Obama was just telling it like it is. Of course Obama gives different speeches to different groups of people. Is anyone willing to say that blacks and whites have the same problems on the same level in this country??

  • jamesfrmphilly

    apparently, obama thinks the solution to racism is to admonish blacks at every opportunity….

  • Tonton Michel

    He does seem to be reading from a different playbook for blacks especially men. But that is understandable, the question is what makes him think that the men he is addressing are not doing their part.

  • Taylor Williams

    Yes, it’s the wealthiest and the most privileged who need directing and confronting,but Obama seems to spend more time trying not to make them nervous. He panders to the ruling class and condescends to everyone else. We all have (or in my case, had) sound expectations of President Obama, but while speaking pretty platitudes, he has governed like a Republican.

  • Smilez920

    Well black men go fall in those groups mentioned . There are Hispanic black men, gay black men , Muslim black men , sown times we forget that when were talking about women’s right that includes black women .

    I think sometimes black ppl forget the contributions we’ve made to history haven’t just helped our community but have influenced the world. That others look at what we do and aspire to be us. I don’t think he was trying to take the light of of Black struggle.

  • LReamon

    Did you just admit to basically going to another blog and calling it “news” that you are reporting? Seriously? And what several tweets are you using as proof of said “controversy”? That you actually linked a post from The Daily Beast with absolutely no hint of irony or self-reflection is so sad. So you don’t actually have an original thought, that’s the message? Ok…got it.

  • Taylor Williams

    Here’s the statement with which I take issue: “But 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 has given many beautiful speeches. He and his speechwriters know just the right pictures to paint, just the right heart strings to pull, and just the right cadence in which to deliver them. He has seduced us well. To all that I say, look at his actions. Whether it’s insurance companies, “too big to fail” banks, mortgage lenders, oil companies, the nuclear power industry, or the one striving hardest for the vilest entity on the planet — Monsanto — Obama has bent over for them, excused them, patted them on the back, placated and pandered to them, given their representatives seats of power in his administration,and has refused to file charges for their crimes, all the while handing over our wealth, our health, and our planet to them. Rank hypocrisy.

  • LReamon

    So you’re reporting on the news of an article written on May 18th? Ok.

  • Clutch

    Pretty much :) Thanks!

  • MommieDearest


    “Well black men go fall in those groups mentioned . There are Hispanic black men, gay black men , Muslim black men , sown times we forget that when were talking about women’s right that includes black women.”

    Absolutely. I’m totally aware that there are blacks in each of these groups mentioned. My point is, if he were talking to a group of Hispanics, would he SPECIFICALLY mention the plight of black Hispanics? If he were talking to a group of women, would he SPECIFICALLY mention the plight of black women?

    Part of the our history, particularly in this country, is that many of our struggles are a direct result of us doing for others and not doing as much for ourselves. WE need to be concerned about OUR issues and doing something to help OURSELVES. And that includes black women, black gays, etc… who are a part of OUR community. It shouldn’t be up to us to champion those other groups as a whole. Now if they benefit from the overflow, great! But we should not be taking up their cause over our own.

  • Lillian Mae

    RE: Therefore, the President’s speech has to be different when addressing each group.

    I agree that his speech will be different for each group, but his tone should never be one of condescension. I don’t ever hear him speaking to the Republican, Congress, or Wall Street with that tone; it’s yet another reason those groups I mentioned punk the President and he’s perceived as weak (except for when he addressed the Black community).

  • Lillian Mae

    He got what he wanted…VOTES!

    IDK if anyone voted the second time around for a black president or against Mitt.

  • JS

    I don’t think he thinks they aren’t doing their part but is speaking in generalities. I know lots of grads, no matter what color, think that they will graduate and doors open. Well doors only open most of the time if you have connection to the gatekeepers. Obama just wants to make sure they stay hungry and don’t give up the fight.

    Also that isn’t to say every Black person abandon’s their community but I’d say as a race of people we don’t look out for each other and support each other as well as we should. I know their is a lot of historical, social, and systematically oppressive reasoning for this. However I take no problem with Obama reminding young grads to be ambitious to gain the power to make their communities a better stronger place.

  • Lillian Mae

    He pre-judged them.

  • Lillian Mae

    It’s good to see someone else sees this situation for what it is. President is a politician just like all before him…he just has a brown face.

  • nerdstradamas

    I agree with you B. I can understand a call of action, but the speech sounded like a chastisement. And he spoke as if he was certain these men would just get great jobs and abandon the black community. His rhetoric was indeed stale…

    I think African American graduates, esp. those of an HBCU don’t necessarily have intentions of leaving the black community behind, but speaking as a first generation college graduate, it’s difficult managing finding a decent job post graduation, thinking about how you can make higher education a consistent standard in your own family for generations to come, and then you need to consider taking on the needs of an entire community too?

    Like you said, just let these men have their day to bask in their accomplishments. Leave the chiding behind. Life is going to give them enough ugly reminders about their race and “obligations”.

  • Nubian88

    THANK YOU! Blacks do not need the same message as Whites because we encounter different struggles. We don’t need flawed statistics to tell us that the black community have some serious issues. Take a look around…

  • nerdstradamas

    Perhaps I spoke to soon when writing my comment. I will have to check out the speech and see how it was delivered as opposed to just reading the quotes.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    “what makes him think that the men he is addressing are not doing their part”

    all black men are suspect to obama. must be his black father.

  • Smilez_920

    I don’t think he was asking those men to ” take up” those other groups causes . I think he was just trying to tell these men how their contributions to society not only helps the black community , but influences others .

    I understand that often outside groups ask us to stand behind their causes , and when the tables out turn. They rarely make a peep to help support ours. I just think in this context Obama wasn’t going for the whole ” help them” more of the ” what you contribute to society is so amazing that it will make an impact on all ppl who have some sort of struggle”( the overflow you speak of)

  • Smilez_920

    Gradation speeches aren’t meant to be fluffy and ” o you did so good”. He gave them praise, but with the praise , these young men are about to enter the real world, an they need to understand what’s out there .

    Also I didnt see anything wrong with Obama telling these young men that they need to give back / pay it forward to their community . These young men are the future doctors , politicians, teachers etc of our community and this country. When they get positions of power and have the ” well what do I owe the Blake community attitude” ppl will complain . Other communities progress because they give back to one another . No ones telling these men they have to start giving back today or tomorrow , he’s just telling them when you make it don’t forget where you started.

  • dreemeagle

    oh, dear…”elitest” comments at a preppy-like school what only speaks siddidy and clings religiously to its notion as a “black Ivy League of the south”–a place that festers with more black republicans than Justice Uncle Remis Thomas’ clerk room…horrible!

  • Missy

    LOL @ your faulty logic

  • Dave

    “But ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and powerful.”

    Worked well enough for you, didn’t it Mr. President?

  • LReamon


  • ArabellaMichaela

    You think “our community is experiencing such a brain drain.”
    Ok. I have one question for you: Where are those brains going? Please tell me where they’re finding jobs? Thanks!

    (No offense, London, but you sound like a retired person and definitely not like someone out here in the workforce.)

  • Sean

    As a expected I knew his comments would get this reaction from some. Every time he makes these speeches to black people(especially in non election years) he is truthfully telling you his true feeling on black people and the role of government.

    He is conservative when it comes to black people. He is more Booker T ” lift yourselves by your boot strap then a believer in government can help black people. He should know he runs the government , he knows government is not going to get black people jobs (see blk unemployment rate), its not going to rebuild our families or communities. Only by doing for self, and believing in our selfs first, will true change will ever happen He is just telling the truth without saying it out loud.

    Hopefully when he is no longer president we will get his real views on black people in America and the role of government.

  • Think Critically

    Speaking as a black person living in this here country, I will say this: We have a lot of issues. And someone needs to speak frankly and openly about the issues that we face or we will simply perish.

    Black men are drowning in this country and I feel that Obama seized the opportunity to speak directly to some of our best and brightest black men about the role they hopefully will play in bettering our collective condition.

    I am sick and tired of everyone blaming racism for everything. Yes, racism exists. Yes, white people are often the worst people on the planet. But, every single one of my black friends has at least two degrees. We don’t have those degrees because we are all privileged, but because we wanted them and worked hard for them. Are there obstacles that I/we have to contend with because of our/my gender/race? Yes. But, I don’t allow that to stop me from succeeding.

    Black people who “make it” often leave our communities behind, so “we” don’t get anywhere. We need more people to give back or else black people will be doomed in this country.

    I saw nothing wrong with his speech and it needs to be said again and again and again. Black America needs to WAKE UP or be left behind. The government is NOT going to solve our problems. White people aren’t going to magically stop being racist. Get to work and roll up your sleeves damn it.

  • Relle

    THANK YOU! Well said!

  • Child, Please

    I’m upset this takes away from the Morehouse graduates because there were some very good local stories reported on them (and Spelman) out of Atlanta, but I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s always criticized harshly in his speeches given to African-Americans. One guy complained the the speech didn’t focus on charging grads with the task of paying it forward (to paraphrase) as opposed to the idea that Black male stereotype. I’m just glad those students got to hear him speak. They’ll always remember that!

  • addassamari

    I know why this speech is considered controversial – it made Americans uncomfortable. It may have been made at Morehouse College but it was aimed at every Black person who hears it. What if Black Americans actually listens to him? What if they actually take to heart what he says? The grasp of dismay from certain Black quarters in the country. Oh, yes he made Black and White Americans uncomfortable. The worry, you see; hence, the label: Controversial.

  • The Artist

    I guess the truth hurts sometimes, but bare with it we must in order to seek the best within ourselves.

  • binks

    I agree! I was reading this waiting for the offense and personally didn’t find any. I think this is a much to do about nothing. Do I wish he would make these types of speeches to other audiences as well, sure but this speech here especially for the venue didn’t take away from what he was saying and referencing. I think we need to start hearing the message instead of killing the messenger.

  • Yvette

    He actually worked here in Chicago as a poorly paid community organizer for many years. He later joined the faculty in the law school at the University of Chicago when he could have easily taken a position in corporate America.

  • Monique

    What’s the controversy – a good writer/speaker tailors his message to his audience. He spoke the truth.

  • Ayana

    Uuum, what’s so controversial about what he said? Shouldn’t the message be specific to the audience it’s being delivered to? This right here is why we as black people have such a hard time getting ahead. Always looking to make something out of nothing instead of actually paying attention to the message.

  • Sashay

    @joan- Equal?? We are not equal. You guys need to make up your minds. How can you acknowledge the disparities and inequalities in our society and then expect for things to be addressed equally??? With this logic we would do away with affirmative action. You can’t ignore that culturally is some uniqueness in how we communicate, articulate and even educate. As a black person and an HBCU grad, I embrace the difference. Had that been an Irish-Catholic university and a priest as the keynote, there would have been references pertinent to that culture. He spoke to some overwhelming problems facing our community to people who will now have a little more access and will be in a better position to do something about it. Geezz you act as if he got up there like, “yo what up, crack is whack!”

  • Tonton Michel

    Not down his nose.

  • Nakia

    We don’t need speeches at all, we need policy. He was talking to College grads at a commencement ceremony, not at a community center. We should get different speeches (rhetoric) but the same (or no) policies and tangible support for change? OK. His “messages” have done nothing to affect change in the Black American community, as they’ve been backed by…nothing, and in my opinion, Obama has don his fair share of damage.

    Either way, this speech was not offensive. Now Michelle’s speech? That was just terrible.

  • The Other Jess

    Some of his speeches really bother me, but this one didn’t. He’s saying that no matter what, no mater what obstacles come before you, don’t let it be an excuse to give up. Even though you know your being black makes it twice as hard for oyu, don’t let those who are racists stop you. No matter what. I kind of like it. But I don’t think he should ever let the name of Dr. King leave his lips, because Obama is far from being a peacemaking leader.

  • Tony Gilder

    Why is the president of the United States telling Morehouse graduates to be the best boyfriends they can be? I realize he has this whole gay agenda but come on. This is Dr. King’s alma mater and I would venture that many if not most go to Christian churches. Everybody in the black community know that gays exist in the race but why use this occasion to mention it? I thought it very poor taste and just shows how out of touch the President is with the black community. What next? A speech at Spellman extolling the virtues of abortion?

  • Tonton Michel


  • Barmond

    This speech was spot on! I am sick of our community “trivializing” speech. He was truthful andnt handle that then you are suffering dillusion in the overestimation of political correctness.

  • tracy h

    I ask myself this same question. But whenever he addresses a black audience, whether at Morehouse or the NAACP or even the National Association of Black Journalists….there’s always the implication in his words and tone that we’re not really quite ” doing our part”. We’ve got to ” find our bootstraps” and not ” use race as an excuse”. It would be hard to find a man more out of touch with black reality, with American reality than this man seems to be. Wonder if the Morehouse administration is still glad they invited him..?

  • Tonton Michel

    I agree and his wife seems to using the same speech writer of late.

  • tracy h

    Apparently, every Obama speech to Black Americans is a time for admonishment. Every single one. I will also caution readers that the entirety of his speech has not been published on this site, and the section highlighted here is not really the most ‘controversial’ portion. Why are so many angry, upset or confused after his speech? Because he pulled out the ‘ personal responsibility ‘ card and the ‘pull yourselves up ‘ card and the ‘ don’t forget where you came from’ card, over and over again. He does not talk this way to white people. But this is just a variation of the same speech he gives black groups at every opportunity. I believe the difficult lesson here is that, just because someone may look like you, doesn’t necessarily mean they understand you. Just because someone resembles you, doesn’t mean he’s walked in your shoes, or that he wishes you well. These are very strange times.

  • http://L L

    Against Mitt, here.

  • http://L L

    I have a sense, Joan that Obama and Michelle were both raised in households that spoke in these tones whene referencing blacks versus whites. Blacks need to be more accountable and to stop complaining versus talcum powdering his/her white colleagues and family members. He’s elitist-No doubt. Tacos and Cornell West tried to warn us. :)

  • Rae.

    @AB I Can’t help but agree with President Obama. I don’t see what is so wrong with his speech. He simply saying to them what my parents told me “yes there will be racism and yes people will try to keep you from reaching your goals.. but life is not about whether or not people try to hold you back, because they will…life is about whether or not you let them!!! I don’t see it as him saying don’t play the “race card” I see it as him saying yes America is unfair but that is NO EXCUSE, and it isn’t! As African Americans we need to look at our black president and realize that sometimes the hands that have the strongest strangle hold on our success are our own.

  • CeeCee

    I do not agree with all of Obama’s policies, but I can agree that life is hard and that you have to make the most of it. You cannot go around and expect someone else to fix your life for you; white folks are going to be racist , people of all races are going to try to bring you down, jobs are not easy to come by, and obtaining an education is a challenge. At the end of the day, you have to be proactive and do something to change your life. I am a late 80′s baby, so I did not grow up during the Civil Rights era, but based on what I have read, black folks went through “real” hard times. Unfortunately, the 20 somethings of my generation feel entitled to things, I meet people all of the time who claim that they haven’t been able to find a job, but don’t even have a Resume (side-eye). Then there are those folks who say that its too challenging to go to college with costs and all so they won’t even bother, but have not even bothered to take a college entrance exam (another side-eye). Any ways, I could go on and on, but I am not going to soapbox today.

  • Dave

    Law student here Yvette. That position at chicago is a six figure job. A dream job really, can come with tenure. I have also done community organizing. Spent an entire summer doing it in some very rough places. Why? To get to where Mr. Obama is telling to me to think twice before going. He’s worth 7.2 million btw. Not bad for being poor and humble.

  • kelly

    Obama, I’m really starting to see you as a conservative elitest. This speech made it official.

  • Yvette

    He may make the case for being humble and serving others. Neither he nor I would advocate being poor though. I’m nit sure what point you’re trying to make but I think his point of serving others in academia, through public service, public office or otherwise are all noble ways to give back even if you choose a career in corporate America. The fact that he is now worth millions is inconsequential to me. He advocates service and has and continues to back up his call in his own life. No harm, no foul from my vantage point.

  • jay cee

    I told the person I watching (streaming) the speech with, “Watch, people are going to find fault with his speech and criticize him.They always do. I thought the speech was absolutely FABULOUS! It was thrilling. It was stupendous. I wonder what the Morehouse Men thought about it? Anybody every consider that?

  • Dave

    Sigh, let’s see…the point i’m trying to make…ah, yes: The Monsanto Protection Act. Heard of it? He signed it. That great, black beacon of public service. But hey, no harm, no foul right?

  • Ask_ME

    My best guess: In one ear and out the other.

    The days of the “Great Morehouse Man” are over. They’ve been only for well over a decade.

    The school is full of thugs, homosexuals, so-called players and men would care less about helping their community.

  • oscar debardeleben (@the_odizzle)

    This speech was not elitist, it does acknowledge that they have (the grads) potential to be the elite in society, and should see themselves as leaders not just people who have the ability enrich themselves but also their community of origin. I want people to become the best they can be an elite soldier is a greater asset than rank and file. I’m sick of this crab in the bucket mentality if person learns to fly then let them fly, recognize they are on a higher level that you yourself can strive to achieve.

  • Phi

    Obama has gotten the Black vote and now he wants more of white support?

    Also he can’t or won’t do more to eliminate discrimination in hiring so he is blaming us for making excuses for our state. Why does he not ask his justice department to eliminate what we all know is happening. Other then great sounding words, what does he propose we do! I want my vote back!

    The speech was insulting! We got played!

  • Phil

    I agree, he is not the first Black President. He seems to be a white man in black face. Clueless as to what goes on in the Black Community. An all Male Black College being encouraged to love there boyfriends! Although it is too late (elected two terms) it is time we stand for what is true instead of racism. Our love of Obama is pure unadulterated racism at this point.

  • AB

    I absolutely agree that we need to take control of our own destinies and stop being our own worst enemies. But when the first black POTUS says those things, it carries a lot more weight and means a lot of different things to a lot of people. For example, people like you and I might hear his speech and be encouraged. But others who are less sensitive to the very real impediments to black advancement (or looking to absolve themselves from guilt) will take it as proof that racism is no longer a major issue in American society. I appreciate the dialogue, sis! Peace.

  • Lynda C. (@mPowerServices)

    The hustling and grind things are just stuff people his age say. I know because I’m close to his age. Truth is people are always waiting to be offended therefore they are….so keep grinding. :-)

  • Phi

    I concur, there is an interesting piece in the Washington Post regarding Morehouse speech. The authors take was that Obama’s speech was not actually directed at Blacks or Morehouse students. at all, but to a larger constituency?

    Let us hope our leaders hear us when say we heard what you were saying and what you were not saying?

  • Phi

    I missed that “hustling” and “grind” comment? It simply tells me that he has a white speech writer or he has a low opinion of Black intellect. What does Michelle provide in terms of a filter for him?

    Who will tell the King that his new clothes don’t exist. He is drinking his own cool-aid at this point–an empty suit? Troubling.

    It is time that we articulate our own futures. This man is more white (mentality) than black. We need true Black leadership. The Minister from Philly sounds encouraging?

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  • Joan

    “@joan- Equal?? We are not equal. You guys need to make up your minds. How can you acknowledge the disparities and inequalities in our society and then expect for things to be addressed equally???”

    @ Sasha or Sashay – Disparities can be acknowledged in society on ALL sides. That means that just as a president can speak bluntly to a group of African Americans about the things that they can improve, he can do the same with a group of white Americans….but he never really does that. He never really tells them what they need to do in quite the same way. Why is that? Sure, African Americans have a lot of work to do and many of us have to take on more personal responsibility. But white Americans (who are often in positions of power, who tend to have the most financial security and who are most often the offenders when it comes to systematic racial discrimination) have a big hand in how a lot of things turn out….especially when it comes to the rest of us (minorities). Honestly, I don’t have that much of a problem with this particular speech. It’s just that Obama has spoken bluntly to groups of African Americans on other occasions in ways that he would never speak to a white audience (who also needs to hear some blunt speeches). It’s so easy to constantly point a finger at black people and say, “Get your sh@t together.” When will he do the same with white audiences? When will he acknowledge that the same white audiences who helped put him in office are the same white audiences who continue to perpetuate racial, sexual and age discrimination? I’m not saying that he shouldn’t say anything to African Americans. I’m saying that if he’s going to be blunt with African Americans, be blunt with white Americans, too.

  • Sharon J

    Great response Taylor. President Obama always comes across as being condescending toward black people, particularly black males. His speeches to blacks are more for white conservatives, who can’t stand him in the first place. You’ve won a second term Mr. President. You no longer have to prove that you can keep the Negroes in line.

  • Phi

    What has the President done to assure equality of opportunity–which is actually his job for all America.

    He uses the “excuse” when congress rejects his agenda, but lectures us no to.

    His job is to insure our constitutional rights regardless of color.

    Stop “shuffling” and “javing” as Sarah Palin, says and enforce the law! Show moral courage and do the right thing.

    If is message is: Self dependence–no help from Government to end inequality then say it! Stop the Stephen F act. Promote equality for race with the “grind” that you give gay relationships!

    Disappointed and perplexed in hope and change rhetoric.

    Is this Administration about a closet Gay agenda only. “Be good husbands to your boyfriends” is this all personal responsibility about to the President?

    We are hurting Mr. President and you do not have our backs after we gave you complete support?

  • Phi

    Great comment! The President would certainly do the same candid talk to white audiences regarding their short comings!

    But a black president can’t do that for fear of reprisal. So go down to Ga and beat the ” .”

  • Phi

    Amen! He is right, it is truly time to stop making excuses for the Obama Administration of Hope and Change.

    Absolutely, everything has changed for the worse!

    Let us focus on electing a President who can lead, regardless of gender or race, but based on merit.

    We as a people really desire what we got. We were racist in our selection criterium. No excuses!

    We got burned!

  • Good News

    PEOPLE say keep it 100 or keep it trill, It all mean the same as long as you get your point across to your target audience and thats exactly what he did. The graduates have a responsibility to their community and he expounded on that, We worry about the wrong thing to much, Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. “talented tenth” was a great simile. What do you want to hear him to say …”Dont ride that white horse” #CAU#TM4U

  • Tam


  • Tam

    No it’s something he picked up from JayZ. Yeah, right he was saying “stay on your grind” when he was in Hawaii going by the name Barry.


  • Fantastico

    The first time I voted for him I believed the hope hype. The second time I knew he was simply the lesser of two evils.

    He participates in anti black rhetoric and does little to ease the burden of racism, but Mit Romney would make things even worse.

  • Phi

    Well, this is a paradox isn’t it. Perhaps with Mitt Rommey the collective Black Leadership would be less apathetic and actually fight for progress both nationally and locally. It appears that there may be an odd confluiance or mix of race, class and politics “patholog” playing out here that mascarades as new leadership but in practice is no more than placebo.

    Only history will tell ithe “cause and effect” of African American problems and the extent of personal responsibility plays when they show up to apply for employment?

    But one thing is for sure: we are on our own for the next four years with regard to Government Economic policy intervention.

  • Phi

    But we got a Black President with racial characteristics like ours. What a story a little black boy touching his hair–that is enough for us.

    Also, Kerry Washington, Halle Berry and the Star Trek woman? (…and every movie and TV show–we is free! ) are getting image awards for not seeing race even though they know that their appeal is the mixed race (black women and white men) sex thing!

    This would be laughable if not so sad. It seems that everything is upside down?

    Today the President told the families of illegal immigrants that they should speak out–not to stop making excuses?

    I am totally confused. I want to become a Republican. :()

  • Tony Gilder

    Like his benefactor Oprah Winfrey, Mr. Obama carries a titanic chip on his shoulder owing to perceived slights during their childhoods. And both fancy themselves in the position to stick their tongues out and any and everyone whom they believe wronged them. For Ms. Winfrey’s part, she has her billions to buttress her pent up hostility. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has only the rather flimsy security of political office. Both believe that they are untouchable since blacks will not risk denouncing them and white fear being called racists. It’s a hostage situation, really. As such, both have a bloated sense of self-importance; a belief that they are smarter than everyone else; and especially in Mr. Obama’s case, a belief that he can say and do what he wants and naysayers be damned.

  • Phi

    The President controls the priorities of the Justice Department and law enforcement agencies. EEOC, FBI, etc. He can enforce age discrimination, race and quality! We do not want a Daddy but we do want a POTUS with moral courage and the or the guts to do what is already on the books! Stand for justice.

    Look at the case of the Harvard Professor–clearly within his rights to challenge the Officer for arresting him fo entering his owe house. But because of the racial and political “blue line”, the most powerful man on the planet caved like a cheap tent with Joe Biden pouring the beer. A missed opportunity to talk about the challenges faced by Black Males.

    It is time to set an example and grow a pair.

  • Ken Kojei

    Once again, it seems folks continue to pander to a narrative that is custom designed to divide and conquer. Is anybody paying attention to this? First of all, Obama, no matter what he may have WANTED to do for African America came face to face with a reality you can ONLY see once you enter office and that is: He is The President, not the dictator. You think that man has power? Hell no!!! There is no person on the planet with as many “handlers”. And the first message he got once in office? ” Your job is about a nation. Not any one ethnic group.”

    African Americans suffered disproportionately during the Great Depression 2 because for years, while so many of us who fought in the trenches for civil rights were preaching the mantra “buy black, build black and “harness the multi-billion dollar black economy” nobody took it seriously. Nobody took Na’im Ahkbar seriously when he warned-in his book Visions For Black Men” that black people were governors and senators after emancipation but that did not stop Jim Crow from terrorizing our lives all the way until the civil rights era. That Jim Crow could and would rear its ugly head AGAIN if these criminals felt threatened enough.

    Be warned again. Unless African Americans begin the real dialogue required to end the black male v. black female war, unless we abandon the search for “jobs” and aggressively create businesses using our skills, unless we see how “killing” it is for us to move into white owned properties, paying too much for rent that amounts to no equity for us and therefore no control, unless we pay careful attention to the sneaky, fascist killing game represented by Big Pharma and Monsanto and the whole GMO crowd, a killing game directed at BROWN PEOPLE all over the world, whose mission is to eliminate billions of people with even a hint of African genetics we are toast!!!! Barack Obama has 3.5 more years in office. When he is done, the killing will proceed in earnest. First sign, Obama signed H.R. 933. What is that? It’s better known as the Monsanto Protection Act. Click Link, Read about it and act on it!!!! GMOs are killing black and brown people by the million. Not in the future, NOW!!!!!

    The point here it that Obama’s speeches mean exactly jack!!!! What Obama does means everything. We don’t need to even discuss his speeches. We DO need to discuss WHAT TO DO about his acts AND his omissions. We DO need to educate ourselves!!! And ACT!!!

  • Chinaworld

    Barack Obama clearly addressed the wrong group of men. This speech should have been addressed directly to his pal Jay-Z and all his other black celebrity cohorts he love to entertain at the Whitehouse.

  • Orlando Coombs

    Obama’s speech to the graduating class at Morehouse was a very powerful message. Very motivating and uplifting and life giving. He’s calling them to take on a renewed since of purpose and to make no excuses. He used quotes from many places to drive home his salient points. He encouraged to not forget those left behind, he’s a great man. And all you critics of his speech need to sit your asses down and shut up. Cause yall got nothing positive to say about anything and your looking for someone to blame for your own failures in life. And a lot of black leaders, these poverty pimps like Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, Rev Manning, Jessie Jackson and others who exploit the predicament of the Black Underclass for their own personal gain. These guys are the real enemy of Black People. They reinforce a victim mentality amongst the poor and disenfranchised among Black People which keeps them wallowing in a dark bottomless pit of hopeless and despair furthering the assurity that their hustle shall remain firmly intact. When your a victim now you aint got to do nothing but wallow in it, and that’s bullshit. Obama brings a message of hope, motivation, personal responsibility, and self empowerment. All you Critics of my President and Commander in Chief and Man after my own Heart, Fuck Yall.

  • Tony Gilder

    You oughta be on Def Comedy Jam.

  • Orlando Coombs

    Barack and Michele speak to Black and White Audiences differently because its too different experiences. He’s not reinforcing the victims mentality among black people and he aint entertaining foolishness either. Obama always brings a message of encouragement and self empowerment. I love his speech to the brothers at Morehouse and they loved it too. All you haters amd naysayers get a life.

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