President Obama Gives Two Commencement Speeches Over Weekend, Highlights Racial Inequality and Pandemic Disaster

While he was there for the graduates, he was speaking to the nation.

Former President Barack Obama delivered a rousing commencement speech on Saturday to graduates of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) urging them to “have a vision that isn’t clouded by cynicism or fear”.

What We Know:

  • During the two hour “Show Me Your Walk HBCU Edition” virtual ceremony – the brainchild of Dr, Michael J. Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College – Obama took a jab at the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. As of mid-May, the pandemic has resulted in the deaths of nearly 90,000 Americans.
  • He was halfway through the first commencement speech when he said, “These aren’t normal times. You’re being asked to find your way in the world in the middle of a devastating pandemic and terrible recession.”
  • He let those young grads know how proud he and the community are of them. How they should be proud of themselves, dealing with everything that has been dropped into their laps. Pointing out how the virus has exposed inequalities and added burdens that certain communities have had to deal with, he reminded them, and us, that injustice is not new in this country. That, if this country is going to be better, its up to all of us to make it so, but it is going to start with them.
  • That was the matinee appearance. For his second show in the evening, he started by letting those high school graduates know how proud he was of them. How strong they are for dealing with things that generations that came before them had no clue about. How it is time to start to put their childhoods down and pick up the pressures of adulthood. And they are going to have to do it faster than many of us had to, because, “All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? It turns out that they don’t have all the answers.”
  • Obama’s message resonated with graduates like Tytiana Christmas, a computer engineering major at Virginia State University who earned her degree over the weekend. “President Obama’s message was very inspiring because it touched on life at an HBCU and how we, as HBCU graduates, have been given the tools that we need to excel in life,” said Christmas.
  • On Sunday, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund partnered with Facebook, All Def, Watch The Yard, and Paul Quinn College to a host a virtual HBCU Graduation Cookout that included music, stories from graduates and congratulatory messages from well known-known figures like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Donna Brazile and Lionel Richie – all while raising money for Black colleges.

The world feels unstable right now, but we are going to right this ship, and you (young people) are going to be a big part of how we do it. Thank you President Barack Obama, Lebron James, Alex Rodriguez, Amy Schumer and everyone involved in this weekend’s commencement events, for being that calm voice of reassurance and stability that we all needed to hear.




Dominique Browder is a Digital Intern at UnmutedCo.