Both President and Mrs. Obama gave exemplary speeches to graduating African Americans, each emphasizing the importance of individual grit, personal responsibility, and giving back to the community.
These were fundamentally conservative messages, embracing the spirit of private achievement and giving that is the foundation of conservative thought.
If only the Obamas’ policies matched this rhetoric!
But let’s take the good where we can. No ethnic group in America needs a conservative message more than African Americans. There’s far too much hardship among them, and big government is only embalming the black community in misery.
There are no stronger role models for young African Americans that Barack and Michelle Obama. To hear them each say, “it’s on you,” is inspirational.
Obama’s remarks Sunday to the graduating class at Morehouse college were completely shorn of the statist rhetoric and attacks on Republicans that plagued a commencement address two weeks ago at Ohio State University.
Instead of telling these students of that the Founders somehow intended to create the welfare state, Obama told them they’re going to have to put their backs into living, and that they should try to inspire others along the way.
We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there’s no longer any room for excuses. (Applause.)
I understand there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: “Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.” Well, we’ve got no time for excuses. Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil — many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did — all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned. (Applause.)
Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them. And if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too. (Applause.)
Michelle, who spoke Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School Commencement in Nashville, emphasized the need to provide yourself with a helping hand when you need it.
You’ve got to dig deep and work like crazy. And that’s when you’ll find out what you’re really made of, during those hard times.
But you can only do that if you’re willing to put yourself in a position where you might fail. And that’s why so often, failure is the key to success for so many great people. Take Steve Jobs, who was fired from Apple early in his career, and now his iPods and iPads and iPhones have revolutionized the entire world. Oprah was demoted from her first job as a news anchor, now she doesn’t even need a last name. (Laughter.) And then there’s this guy, Barack Obama, who lost — (applause) — I could take up a whole afternoon talking about his failures, but — (laughter) — he lost his first race for Congress, and now he gets to call himself my husband. (Laughter and applause.)
All jokes aside, the point is, is that resilience and grit, that ability to pick yourself up when you fall. Those are some of the most important skills you’ll need as you make your way through college and through life.
I hope everyone was listening.