The iconic HBCU welcomed an estimated crowd of 15,000, which included 2,300 graduates and one very inspiring commencement speaker. President Barack Obama took to the podium to receive and honorary Doctorate of Science degree before addressing the bright-eyed group of future leaders with words of inspiration and encouragement that will surely live with them for the duration of their lives.
“Be confident in your heritage. Be confident in your Blackness,” the President told the graduates. “Create your own style, set your own standard of beauty, embrace your own sexuality,” he added. “Because you’re a black person — doing whatever it is that you’re doing — that makes it a black thing!” The POTUS also spoke briefly about the falsely perpetuated idea that his historic achievement of becoming the first Black president was an indication of a post-racial society.
“No, my election did not create a post-racial society,” he said with a slight laugh. “I don’t know who was propagating that notion – that wasn’t mine.
But the election itself was just one indicator of how attitudes have changed.” He also went on to mention achievements of successful African-Americans in pop culture including Michael Jordan, Beyonce and Shonda Rhimes, as examples of how things have progressed with regard to Black ownership relative to when he was a new college graduate back in 1983.
In addition to the President, 91-year-old legendary actress Cicely Tyson also spoke to the students briefly after being presented with an honorary degree. Take a listen to each of their remarks in full in the video below.