The thunder and rain could not dampen the mature version of that "hopey-changey stuff" from President Obama on Sunday. President Obama delivered an intensely personal commencement speech to Morehouse College, a historically black, all-male institution that is also the alma mater of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The theme of personal responsibility is not new for President Obama, but contextualizing it through race, family, and accomplishment was electric. Reflecting on his own personal journey, President Obama was candid, emotional, and subtle.
His analysis of the racial and sociocultural barriers facing African American men was a rare departure from his generally pan-American stand: "We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down."
"But one of the things you've learned over the last four years is that there's no longer any room for excuses." Relating this notion of accountability to oneself served as a lightning rod given that President Obama was criticized immensely for his weak managerial role in the scandals last week.
In the most personal section of his speech, President Obama exposed his own experiences with family: "I still wish I had a father who was not only present, but involved. And so my whole life, I've tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father wasn't for my mother and me. I've tried to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man."
He implored the Morehouse graduates on making the right choices and serving as an example for their families, communities, and the country because "Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family."
President Obama spoke in a way that clearly reflected his experiences and stature in American public life. His focus on the moral issue of responsibility was reflective of the greater circumstances facing him and the American public.
The New York Times summarizes succinctly that this speech was "both a reminder of [President Obama's] historic role and an emphatic change of subject."
Here is the full commencement speech: