President Barack Obama will give the commencement speech at Atlanta’s Morehouse College in May.
Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. was to announce the news to his students Saturday night.
According to a White House official, Morehouse was selected because it is “one of the nation’s leading historical black colleges and universities (and) is among the best and brightest institutions of higher education in the country. Known for its high standard for excellence in learning and social consciousness, Morehouse is home to a long list of notable alumni that spans the last three centuries.”
Among those alumni is the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Wilson said it was fitting that the president’s visit will be in the 50th anniversary year of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. It is also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 100th anniversary of the name Morehouse College, which was changed from Atlanta Baptist College in 1913.
“The president’s life story trumpets an ethic that we try to instill in all Morehouse men, namely excellence without apology or compromise,” Wilson said Saturday. “It’s a good thing to have him here for that reason.”
Wilson has been on the job as Morehouse’s president for just three weeks. Previously he was the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Wilson said he did not lobby for the presidential visit and received the call from the White House not long after he started at Morehouse in late January.
Last year, Obama gave the commencement speech at all-female Barnard College in New York City and at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. This will be his second historically black college commencement, as he spoke at Hampton University in May 2010.
Obama visited the Atlanta area this past Thursday to see the other end of the educational spectrum: a pre-kindergarten class in Decatur.