Why there’s no ‘excuse’ for simplifying Obama’s message to Morehouse men


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by James Braxton Peterson, theGrio.com

Interestingly enough, both the president’s detractors and his supporters will seize on the same soundbite from his address to the 2013 graduating class at Morehouse College.

In the speech, he basically makes two requests of the Morehouse graduating seniors – 1) In the Morehouse tradition, continue to expect more of yourself and 2) “inspire those who look up to you to expect more of themselves.”

President Obama’s Full Address

Fair enough.  The soundbite that supporters and detractors of Obama have and will zero in on is: “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.”

I am fairly convinced now that President Obama can not speak to an all or mostly black audience without generating some variation of diametrically opposed reactions.

Excuses, excuses…

Some have said that this is Obama appeasing his (not present) white audience by once again chastising black men for not being boot-strappy enough; others will say that he is too willing to excuse structural and institutional racism and inequality even as he claims that “we’ve got no time for excuses.”

Supporters will claim that this is one of the most personal speeches that the president has ever given and they will laud his truth-telling and willingness to state the tough-love realities for black men.

I suspect the 2013 graduates of Morehouse College were mostly happy to have the POTUS as their commencement speaker – even if some of them align themselves with his critics.

The president’s recitation of “excuses” seems to resonate beyond this particular speech and may be more aptly

President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and the Cabinet in July 2012.

President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and the Cabinet in July 2012. Some African Americans are angry or disappointed that the President has brought so few black people into leadership in his administration – fewer than brought by his two predecessors Clinton and Bush.

indicative of how some of Obama’s critics (on the left) now see his presidency – emptied of its promise and too often excused by black folks and many in the media for under-performing on politics and policy issues dear to progressives. As a part of his rhetorical strategy to situate himself as an insider (with respect to the Morehouse community), President Obama recited the following:

“Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness….

But more and more black folk are growing weary of the excuses made by and for this administration in the face of diminished resources, high unemployment, and limited access to economic opportunity in the black community.

Read the full opinion piece here.

Read more Breaking News here.

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