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
“Passion is vital, but you better have a strategy. And your plan better
In the 40-minute address, Obama was equally light-hearted, cracking
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. “I’m 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.
“There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view or disrupt a politician’s rally,” he said. “Don’t 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, they’re just advertising their own ignorance.”
The historically black university conferred more than 2,000 degrees at the
According to the Department of Education, overall federal funding to HBCUs is down slightly from 2008, after a peak during 2009-2010 thanks to Obama’s ARRA stimulus package. In addition, some of the policies the administration has taken up to slow the ballooning growth of student loan debt
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But at Howard on Saturday, it was all celebration. The crowd erupted into cheers of “Obama, Obama” several times and offered the president a raucous applause as he approached the lectern. Howard president Wayne Frederick also addressed some of the critiques of the president. He declared that Obama had “addressed our educational needs to the fullest measure, by radically reforming the trillion-dollar student loan program” and called him a “noble and courageous 21st-century visionary”.