President 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.