Several officials from President Obama’s administration are scheduled to give commencement addresses at historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, across the country.
In all, 11 commencement addresses are scheduled to be given by White House officials, continuing the commitment Obama has shown to HBCUs.
“We’re not only doing this because these schools are a gateway to a better future for African Americans; we’re doing it because their success is vital to a better future for all Americans,” Obama said in a press release.
Among the six commencement addresses scheduled for the weekend of May 8 are Education Department Secretary Arne Duncan addressing Xavier University in New Orleans, Michelle Obama giving the commencement address at the University of Arkansas at Pine-Bluff and the president speaking at Hampton University.
Officials at Hampton said they are excited that Obama accepted their invitation to speak and believe he can provide motivation for the school’s 2010 graduates.
“ commitment to leadership, education and service is parallel to Hampton’s mission from our beginning in 1868,” Hampton President William R. Harvey said in a statement. “He is an inspiration for our students to make the world a better place by becoming the very best leaders, educators, doctors, lawyers, financial analysts and scientists that they can be.”
Duncan is expected to ask graduates to consider positions in teaching as he believes there is a shortage of qualified people of color in the noble profession.
“We have far too few teachers of color,” Duncan told HBCU leaders in February. “Only two percent, one in 50 teachers today are African-American males. Something is fundamentally wrong with that picture.”
Obama has placed HBCU front and center in his strategy for the United States to have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020. The schools are set to receive $850 million over the next 10 years as part of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. Combined with $150 million which has already been given to Black schools, a total of $1 billion will be given to support the mission of HBCUs.
Next weekend, senior advisor to the president Valerie Jacobs, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice will give the commencement addresses at Morgan State University, Morehouse College and Spellman College, respectively.