Obama to Morehouse: Feel empathy with gays

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President Obama called on the new graduates of Morehouse College to be the best “boyfriend to your partner” and to help marginalized Americans, including gays and lesbians, during a rousing commencement speech on Sunday in Atlanta.

Obama's nearly 30-minute speech helped raise the profile of LGBT issues on the campus, which has long struggled with its gay students. Since Obama came out for marriage equality in May 2012, he continues to include mentions of LGBT people and issues in major speeches.

At about the 26:30 mark in his address on Sunday, Obama touched on marginalized populations.

But it is not just the African-American community that needs you. The country needs you. The world needs you. See, as Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; to be marginalized; to feel the sting of discrimination. That’s an experience that so many other Americans share. Hispanic Americans know that feeling when someone asks where they come from or tells them to go back. Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love they share. Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work – she sure feels it.

So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy – the understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes. It should give you an ability to connect. It should give you a sense of what it means to overcome barriers.

About four minutes earlier, Obama also challenged the group of all male graduates to be the best partner or spouse they can:

Today, Frederick is a family man, a working man, and a Morehouse Man. And that’s what I’m asking all of you to do: keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife, or boyfriend to your partner, or father to your children that you can be. Because nothing is more important.

Obama's commencement address was the first by a sitting president in Georgia since 1938. Among high-profile attendees were several who mirror Obama's support for gay marriage, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who backed it last December, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, long a champion of LGBT issues.


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