President Barack Obama Praises Shonda Rhimes, Beyonce In Howard University Commencement Speech


President Barack Obama was invited to deliver the keynote speech at Howard University's commencement address this weekend, encouraging the graduates of the historically black school of the importance of channeling anger and discontent in civic action and lobbying for reforms. He also praised African-American artists and activists like Shonda Rhimes, Beyonce and some of the university's prominent alumni like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Zora Neale Hurston.

"Passion is vital, but you better have a strategy. And your plan better include voting," Obama said, alluding to low turnout of youth voters during the 2nd midterm elections of his now 8-year term.

"You don't think that made a difference in terms of the Congress I've had to deal with?" he added.

He also cited the example of Shonda Rhimes and Beyonce as he believes that the two have greatly influenced the visibility of African-Americans in the entertainment industry, People reported.

Beyonce is one of the most popular pop stars in the world while Rhimes is the showrunner of ABC's TGIT lineup, which includes "Grey's Anatomy" and "How to Get Away with Murder." She was responsible for casting Kerry Washington in the lead role of "Scandal," notable for being the first African-American actress to lead a primetime scripted show on network television since 1974.

Obama acknowledged that while significant strides have been made with regards to racial equality, there are still "gaps" and he hoped that the graduates would make it a point to close those gaps.

Despite being the first African American president, Obama had a complicated relationship with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) especially after federal funding to these schools went down during his second term, according to the Guardian.

Apart from Howard University, Barack Obama is also set to address graduating students at the Air Force Academy and Rutgers University.

Watch Obama's commencement speech in full in the video below.

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