In the final year of his presidency President Barack Obama gave a commencement address for the history books at Howard University.
More than 15,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. to hear the nation’s first black president speak at the historically black university known as “The Mecca.”
During the address, Obama talked about progress with race relations, revealed one of his biggest pet peeves and even gave Beyoncé a shout out.
“America is better. The world is better. And stay with me now — race relations are better since I graduated. That’s the truth.”
“Today, former Bull Michael Jordan isn’t just the greatest basketball player of all time — he owns the team. When I was graduating, the main black hero on TV was Mr. T. Rap and hip hop were counterculture, underground. Now, Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night, and Beyoncé runs the world. We’re no longer only entertainers, we’re producers, studio executives. No longer small business owners — we’re CEOs, we’re mayors, representatives, Presidents of the United States.”
Obama went on to explain that society still had issues with racial inequality.
“No, my election did not create a post-racial society. I don’t know who was propagating that notion. That was not mine.” He went on to joke, “But the election itself — and the subsequent one — because the first one, folks might have made a mistake… The second one, they knew what they were getting. The election itself was just one indicator of how attitudes had changed.”
He went on to tell graduates to embrace black as beautiful.
“Be confident in your heritage. Be confident in your Blackness,” he said. “Create your own style, set your own standard of beauty, embrace your own sexuality. Because you’re a black person — doing whatever it is that you’re doing — that makes it a black thing!”
“You need to have the same confidence. Or as my daughters tell me all the time, ‘You be you, Daddy.’ Sometimes Sasha puts a variation on it — ‘You do you, Daddy.'”
The 44th President also talked about one of his biggest pet peeves:
“People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did. So don’t have an attitude.”
Obama noted the efforts of young activists and people committed to social justice, encouraging them to fight for change.
“Mobilize the community, present them with a plan, work with them to bring about change, hold them accountable if they do not deliver. Passion is vital, but you’ve got to have a strategy.”
“Change isn’t something that happens every four years or eight years; change is not placing your faith in any particular politician and then just putting your feet up and saying, okay, go. Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day.”
Check out video of the speech below.