Remarks by the President at Howard University Commencement Ceremony

Remarks by the President at Howard University Commencement Ceremony

The White House
Washington, D.C.

Office of the Press Secretary

Howard University
Washington, D.C.

11:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! Hello, Howard! (Applause.) H-U!

AUDIENCE: You know!


AUDIENCE: You know!

THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) Thank you so much, everybody. Please, please, have a seat. Oh, I feel important now. Got a degree from Howard. Cicely Tyson said something nice about me. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, President!

THE PRESIDENT: I love you back.

To President Frederick, the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, fellow recipients of honorary degrees, thank you for the honor of spending this day with you. And congratulations to the Class of 2016! (Applause.) Four years ago, back when you were just freshmen, I understand many of you came by my house the night I was reelected. (Laughter.) So I decided to return the favor and come by yours…

…Now, how you do that, how you meet these challenges, how you bring about change will ultimately be up to you. My generation, like all generations, is too confined by our own experience, too invested in our own biases, too stuck in our ways to provide much of the new thinking that will be required. But us old-heads have learned a few things that might be useful in your journey. So with the rest of my time, I’d like to offer some suggestions for how young leaders like you can fulfill your destiny and shape our collective future — bend it in the direction of justice and equality and freedom.

First of all — and this should not be a problem for this group — be confident in your heritage. (Applause.) Be confident in your blackness. One of the great changes that’s occurred in our country since I was your age is the realization there’s no one way to be black. Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of debate about whether I’m black enough. (Laughter.) In the past couple months, I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office. There’s no straitjacket, there’s no constraints, there’s no litmus test for authenticity…

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