President Barack Obama on Saturday delivered what may be the final commencement speech of his presidency at Howard University. He used the more than 45-minute long speech to address black activism and so called PC culture on universities.
His parting works of advice to the graduates of this historically black college was trending on Twitter, drawing praise for it optimistic outlook. The message could most succinctly be summed up by one line from his speech — “If you want to make life fair, you have to start with the world as it is.”
Obama has spoken out before about how the PC culture leads to “coddled” students, and he expanded on those ideas during his commencement speech. He addressed the trend of removing speakers on campus who disagree with students’ points of view.
“Don’t try and shut folks out, don’t try and shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them,” Obama said. “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 are just advertising their own ignorance,’ let them talk.”
He said life is better for minorities in America than it has ever been in history and applauded the efforts of young activists. But, with that came an acknowledgement that there’s still a lot to accomplish and as the country moves forward, it will require more people to be open minded and listen to other.
“You can be completely right, and you’re still going to have to engage folks who disagree with you,” Obama said during the speech. “If you think the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged.”
These problems he says will continue on long after his presidency and students today will have to deal with these issues now in college and through the rest of their lives.
“One thing I can guarantee you: you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, triflin’ folks,” Obama said. “I promise you, you will have to deal with that at every stage of your life.”