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‘You might say to yourself a little phrase that I found handy these last eight years: yes we can.’
What stood out in particular wasn’t just the hopeful tone of Obama’s remarks but his explicit embrace of being African-American. Perhaps the most powerful statement the president could make was to speak directly to the students in front of him, calling on a similar embrace of background and ethnicity.
The president also called on Howard grads to continue to inspire as well as fight for the greater good. He specifically cited a student named Cierra Jefferson, the first in her family to graduate from higher education. The daughter of a single mother who worked relentlessly to provide for her family, Jefferson turned down a full ride to Harvard in favor of attending Howard.
“Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves, and fight for it every single day.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 7, 2016
Obama’s entire speech is available on the White House’s YouTube page.
He closed his remarks with the catchphrase that effectively launched his successful presidential campaign: yes we can.
Following his Howard University commencement speech, the president is set to address Rutgers students as well as the United States Air Force Academy. The engagements are to be his final graduation speeches while in office.
A former Weekend Editor at the Daily Dot, April Siese's reporting covers everything from technology and politics to web culture and humor. Her work has been published by Bustle, Uproxx, Death and Taxes, Rolling Stone, the Daily Beast, Thrillist, Atlas Obscura, and others. Siese joined Quartz in December 2016.