ATLANTA - President Obama, in a soaring commencement address on work, sacrifice and opportunity, told graduates of historically black Morehouse College yesterday to seize the power of their example as black men graduating from college and use it to improve people's lives.
The president said his success was due to "the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, people who didn't have the opportunities that I had - because there but for the grace of God, go I. I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I might not have been able to support a family. And that motivates me."
Noting the Atlanta school's mission to cultivate, not just educate, good men, Obama said graduates should not be so eager to join the chase for wealth and material things, but instead should remember where they came from and not "take your degree and get a fancy job and nice house and nice car and never look back.
"So yes, go get that law degree. But if you do, ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and powerful, or if you can also find time to defend the powerless," Obama said. "Sure, go get your MBA, or start that business - we need black businesses out there. But ask yourself what broader purpose your business might serve, in putting people to work, or transforming a neighborhood.
"The most successful CEOs I know didn't start out intent on making money. Rather, they had a vision of how their product or service would change things, and the money followed," he said.
For those headed to medical school, Obama said, "Make sure you heal folks in underserved communities who really need it, too."
Finally, Obama urged graduates to "inspire those who look up to you to expect more of themselves."