During a commencement speech at the all-male Morehouse College on Sunday (19 May), President Barack Obama encouraged students – straight or gay – to be good spouses and parents.
‘… That’s what I’m asking all of you to do: Keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife, or your boyfriend, or your partner. Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important.’
Of his own marriage, Obama said: ‘Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home — (applause) — where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.’
Morehouse is a private, historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia, and is the alma mater of Martin Luther King Jr., among others.
Obama, the first president in US history to publicly support gay marriage while in office, also urged the graduates to have empathy for all minorities – including gays.
‘As Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share,’ he said.
‘Hispanic Americans know that feeling when somebody asks them where they come from or tell them to go back. Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love that they share.Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work — she knows what it’s like to be on the outside looking in.’
‘So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need,’ Obama concluded. ‘It should give you the ability to connect. It should give you a sense of compassion and what it means to overcome barriers.’
Here is a link to the full transcript to Obama’s speech.