WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Over the weekend, President Obama, the First Lady and several other Obama administration officials delivered commencement speeches at many of the nation's historically Black colleges and universities.
The President sent off Hampton University's graduating class on Sunday while the first lady, Michelle Obama, spoke at the University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff the day prior. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes, who addressed Xavier University and Virginia Union University, respectfully, as well as two lower-level administrators, who spoke at Wiley and Huston-Tillotson Universities, also spoke on Saturday.
The series of commencements are a part of the Obama Administration's strategic outreach and promotion of Americas Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). While many, such as Howard University and Spelman Collage, are considered among nation's top schools, almost all of the HBCUs are facing economic setbacks and limited-resources.
In February, the president signed a White House initiative to strengthen HBCUs and he set a goal of historically Black institutions achieving the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. Obama has signed legislation that will give $1 billion dollars in funding to HBCUs and other predominantly Black institutions over the next decade. He has also nearly doubled the aid available in the Pell Grant program.
More than half of the students attending HBCUs qualify for Pell Grants and other financial aid. The president, during a recent White House ceremony honoring HBCUs, spoke of the importance of these institutions to the well-being of not just the African-American community, but to the entire nation.
"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. President Obama's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett is scheduled to address Morgan State University in Baltimore on Saturday. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is tasked to speak to Morehouse College in Atlanta while United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice will deliver the commencement speak to Morehouse's sister school Spelman College, also in Atlanta.