Monday Motivation: President Obama at Howard Commencement

We’ve all seen the clips from President Obama’s commencement speech at Howard University.  It would have been pretty hard to miss his encouraging words as they’ve been plastered all over our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds.  Whether you’ve heard the speech or not, it’s important to hear it again!  Why? Because we all need an extra dose of motivation… on Monday. *le sigh*


Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the speech.

First off, #shoutout to us. As Pres. Obama puts it, we don’t have to be the entertainers or the small business owners or just the interns (in my case, forever an intern). We are the CEOs, the mayors, the game changers and even the PRESIDENTS of the US of A.  You can do it.

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.


I know you’re tired. I know you’d rather be laying on the couch binge watching Grace & Frankie on Netflix (if you haven’t already finished it). But get to work, because there’s definitely work to be done.

We’ve still got a big racial gap in economic opportunity.  The overall unemployment rate is 5 percent, but the black unemployment rate is almost nine.  We’ve still got an achievement gap when black boys and girls graduate high school and college at lower rates than white boys and white girls.  Harriet Tubman may be going on the twenty, but we’ve still got a gender gap when a black woman working full-time still earns just 66 percent of what a white man gets paid.


Be proud of where you come from. Yes, even in the office.

Be confident in your blackness.  One of the great changes that’s occurred in our country since I was your age is the realization there’s no one way to be black.  Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of debate about whether I’m black enough.  (Laughter.)  In the past couple months, I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office.


Hardest of all.

Don’t have an attitude.


Tolerate your fellow coworkers. No matter how outta control the conversation at the coffee station may get.

But listen.  Engage.  If the other side has a point, learn from them.  If they’re wrong, rebut them.  Teach them.  Beat them on the battlefield of ideas.  And you might as well start practicing now, because one thing I can guarantee you — you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks.


Finally, don’t be discouraged. THE PRESIDENT, Barack Obama, looks to people just like you and me for inspiration. How about that.

Young people like you are why I never give in to despair.



Read the full transcript of the commencement speech here.  You can also watch the speech below!

Happy Monday, y’all.


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