President Barack Obama to Deliver Morehouse’s 129th Commencement on May 19th
President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. ’79 was about to speak to staff gathered in the Bank of America Auditorium on Feb. 6 when his phone rang. He quickly apologized, excused himself from the room, and walked off the stage.
Ten days later during the College’s “A Candle in the Dark” Gala, he revealed why that call was so important. Morehouse history would be made on May 19 when President Barack Obama delivers the 129th Commencement address on the Century Campus at 11 a.m.
“It was a wonderful announcement to make,” Wilson said later. “I’ve talked about this being a pivotal year for us. First, it is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, with that symbol being freedom; the 100th anniversary of Morehouse being called Morehouse, and that symbol is identity; and the 50th anniversary of “The Dream,” articulated by our most illustrious graduate, Martin Luther King Jr. ’48, and that symbol is the dream. And to add to that, we have, for the first time ever in our history, a visit by a sitting president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world. This is a great thing. And it is a rare thing.”
It will be the first time a sitting president has given a May commencement address in Georgia, and the first time in three-quarters of a century that one has delivered any commencement speech in Georgia. Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a summer commencement address at the University of Georgia in 1938.
“The president’s life story trumpets an ethic that we try to instill in all Morehouse Men, namely excellence without apology or compromise,” said Wilson, who served as the executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs after being appointed by President Obama. “It’s a good thing to have him here for that reason.”
Obama’s appearance adds even more prestige to a tradition-clad event that features the world-renowned Morehouse College Glee Club, African drummers leading the 500 graduating, predominantly African American seniors, as they parade through campus, through a corridor of proud Morehouse alumni as nearly 10,000 family and friends watch.
Whether continuing their educations in top-notch divinity, business or medical schools or entering careers from Wall Street to Main Street, these accomplished men will become Morehouse Men on Commencement day.
The 129th Commencement will be preceded with the Baccalaureate ceremony on May 18 in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel.
Alumni with class years ending in “3” or “8” will come together to celebrate Reunion 2013. A number of events will be held throughout the weekend and around town, including the Golden Tigers breakfast, which this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the class of 1963.