The season of commencement speeches is upon us. Like every year opinion leaders, artists and entrepreneurs share their wisdom with recent graduates to inspire them to dream bigger, follow their passion and take on the world. Yet the context of 2016 is a bit different for graduates from ethnic minorities. In a particularly heated presidential race where the Republican front runner has repeatedly expressed dangerous rhetoric about women, Hispanics, and Muslims, many multicultural opinion leaders fought back when addressing to the next generations of adults. This has led to incredibly inspirational commencement speeches designed to not only empower new graduates but also too encourage them to “stay woke” as Spike Lee says, and to empathize with all communities.
Here are our 5 most inspirational commencement speeches from multicultural leaders in 2016:
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA | HOWARD UNIVERSITY
“And that means we have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African Americans who haven’t been so lucky — because, yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did. So don’t have an attitude. But we must expand our moral imaginations to understand and empathize with all people who are struggling, not just black folks who are struggling — the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender person, and yes, the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it. You got to get in his head, too.”
Read the full transcript here.
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA | UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
“In a year when politicians traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric, there is also a Broadway musical reminding us that a broke, orphan immigrant from the West Indies built our financial system. A story that reminds us that since the beginning of the great unfinished symphony that is our American experiment, time and time again, immigrants get the job done.”
Read the full transcript here.
TYLER PERRY | TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY
“My intention became, ‘How do I serve other people?’ and ‘How do I lift other people up?’ That’s when I realized that everything in my life began to fall into place. Keep your intentions no matter what pressure comes your way. I am telling you this because it is time to stop running from where we come from to look for someone else to approve us.”
SPIKE LEE | JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
“The United States of America is a very diverse nation. This is one of the many things that makes it great, despite the legacy of the genocide of the native people and slavery. The United States Census Bureau says five years from now, white children will be a minority, and by 2049, white folks will be wholly outnumbered by non-whites. This is happening, people, here and now. It’s time to start embracing it, not fight it.”
Read an edited excerpt from Spike Lee’s remark here.
MICHELLE OBAMA | JACKSON STATE UNIVERSITY
“We’ve got to stand side by side with all our neighbors – straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindu immigrants, Native Americans. The march to civil rights isn’t just about African-Americans, it’s about all Americans.”
Without a doubt 2016 marked a year of exceptional commencement speeches. Which one resonated with you the most? Let us know in the comments!