In commencement speech, president applauds new guard of black activists and urges graduates to develop a strategy that leads to real change
With the end of his term on the horizon and a successor on the campaign trail, Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Howard University on Saturday, encouraging thousands of mostly black graduates to change the US through civic action and compromise.
Passion is vital, but you better have a strategy. And your plan better include voting, Obama said, bemoaning low youth turnout in the 2014 election. You dont think that made a difference in terms of the Congress Ive had to deal with?
In the 40-minute address, Obama was equally light-hearted, cracking inside jokes about campus eateries and dormitories, and serious in his charge of graduates to fight for change and justice. My generation, he said, is too stuck in our ways to provide much of the new thinking that will be required.
The president also urged the younger generation to channel their indignation into action. Change requires more than righteous anger it requires change and it requires a program and it requires organizing, he said, noting the growth of young activist movements including black Twitter and Black Lives Matter. Im so proud of the new guard of black activists who understand this, he added.
To bring about structural change, lasting change, awareness is not enough, he went on. It requires changes in law, changes in custom. If you care about mass incarceration, let me ask you, how are you pressuring members of Congress to pass the criminal reform bill now pending before them?
In a likely allusion to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose rallies have been disrupted by progressive activists, Obama also discouraged graduates from trying to shut down the speeches and events of people they disagree with.
Theres been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view or disrupt a politicians rally, he said. Dont do that, no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths. Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, theyre just advertising their own ignorance.