Obama Says These Two Women Are Proof That Race Relations in the US Have Improved

Obama Says These Two Women Are Proof That Race Relations in the US Have Improved

Find out who he's giving the credit.

Published May 8th

President Barack Obama spoke to students during a commencement speech at Howard University on Saturday, and gave them the hopeful message that racial equality is happening all around us. 

The president told the school's 2,300 graduates that a lot of work still needs to be done but encouraged them to reflect upon the huge strides that have been made in the last several decades. Indeed, he sites two women in particular as proof of that fact. "Now Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night and Beyoncé runs the world," the president said. "I tell you this not to lull you into complacency, but to stir you into action because there's still so much work to do."

Watch the president's entire commencement speech here:

Obama continued to remark on the huge changes he himself has witnessed. "A lot of folks didn't even think Blacks had the tools to be a quarterback," he said. "When I was a graduate, the main Black hero on TV was Mr. T." But today, he said, "We're producers, studio executives. We're no longer small-business owners, we're CEOs. We're mayors, representatives," to which someone in the crowd proudly yelled back, "President!"

Obama continued to say that the new issues face their generation, such as disease and conflict worldwide, new challenges from terrorism and climate change. "America needs you to gladly, happily take up that work ... so enjoy the party, because you're going to be busy," Obama, who was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree during the commencement, said. "So make no mistake Class of 2016. You've got plenty of work to do."

The president continued to say that the country as a whole "also happens to be better off than when I took office, but that's a longer story," Obama added. This drew cheers and applause, but the president reiterated, "That's a different discussion for another speech."

Obama, the son of a white mother and a Black father, left the graduates with a reminder to embrace their racial identity. "Be confident in your Blackness," Obama said. "There is no one way to be Black...There is no straight jacket, there is no litmus test for authenticity."

The president isn't the only member of the Obama family to reach out to young students. Check out Michelle's speech to a group of seniors at an event for College Signing Day, below.

Written by Evelyn Diaz

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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