Howard University’s Class of 2016 was joined by President Barack Obama as the head of state gave the commencement ceremony today (May 7).
In his 45-minute long address, Obama encouraged the HBCU graduates that the United States is a better place than when he graduated college from Columbia University in 1983. He uses multiple pop culture references to explain the advancement of Black people in the country.
“A lot of folks didn’t even think Blacks had the tools to be a quarterback,” he says. “Today, former Bull Michael Jordan isn’t just the greatest basketball player of all time, he owns the team. When I was graduating, the main Black hero on TV was Mr. T. Rap and Hip Hop were counter-culture, underground. Now Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night and Beyonce runs the world.”
Rhimes writes and produces the hit television shows Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy.
Beyonce released her tenth studio album, LEMONADE, last month and it has the highest-selling debut week so far this year.
Obama further addresses the important place that the music industry holds in culture as he continues his acknowledgement of the progression of Black people in American history.
“We’re producers, studio executives,” he says. “We’re no longer small-business owners, we’re CEOs. We’re mayors, representatives.”
Famous Howard alumni include Taraji P. Henson, Toni Morrison and Phylicia Rashad.
Watch President Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Howard University below: