Since his inauguration, President Barack Obama has been the commencement speaker at both Notre Dame and Arizona State University. Many men of Morehouse awaited the day the nation’s first Black president would grace century campus, home of the nation’s only all-male black institution, for an historic moment that would forever reside in American and Morehouse College history.
Sadly that reverie was slightly tainted as news of Obama speaking at Hampton University’s spring graduation surfaced. Hampton, really? Of all HBCUs to visit for the first time, Obama chose Hampton, consistently ranked under Morehouse in both US News’ “Best Colleges 2010: HBCUs Ranking” and Black Enterprise’s “Top 50 Colleges for Black Students.”
Obama visiting an HBCU, to some, is like publicly endorsing the college or university’s commitment to continuing the success of Black higher learning. Essentially, he is a deciding factor in who is deemed the best of the best.
One can easily draw significant parallels between America’s first Black president and Morehouse College, America’s only all-male Black institution. The election of Obama has redefined the expectations of the Black community and, in turn, presented the Black male with a sense of “no excuses,” forever altering his perception of limitations or lack thereof. Despite the aforementioned correlation Obama, or at least his administration, has disappointingly failed to acknowledge Morehouse for its contribution and one-of-a-
kind distinction in the educational sector.
Morehouse, the top feeder of Black male undergraduates, has been redefining the “Black male” image for the past 14 decades. Obama has openly expressed his concern for the national education gap among Black males, so why wouldn’t he show recognition to the institution that’s been combating such racial disparities long before there was a Black president?
Let’s not forget Obama’s analogous image to Morehouse alumnus Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How can one pay homage and evoke the ideals of the great King without recognizing his alma mater?
Some pose the argument that Obama’s decision to speak at Hampton is more political than personal, given William Harvey, president of Hampton, is the White House’s newly appointed chairman for the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. If this is so, some things never change in the political sphere: strictly politics.
Not only did Obama choose Hampton’s president as chairman of the board, but he also placed on the board Beverly Tatum, president of the all-female HBCU Spelman College. Call it selfish or presumptuous, but how is there a board of advisors over HBCUs without the leading institution for Black males? Black men are graduating at a much lower rate than their female counterparts, so wouldn’t a sizable emphasis be placed on the plight of the Black male? There’s no better expertise on Black college men than from a representative of the illustrious, yet overlooked, Morehouse.
The same Morehouse that gathered buses in route to Washington to campaign for “change.” The same Morehouse where young Black males gathered with Morehouse President Robert M. Franklin Jr. on election night and were compelled to tears as they witnessed history in the making. That scene confirmed that the ideals exuded in the psyche of the Morehouse man were no longer to be in vain, and that finally a change had come.
Obama coming to Morehouse is more than just a sense of validation; it would be a prophetic confirmation that for the post-modern Black male, specifically a Man of Morehouse, one can excel above all adversities and even someday walk the White House lawn as president of the United States.
Gerren K. Gaynor