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Obama stresses personal responsibility to Morehouse graduates

President Barack Obama delivers an emotional speech to the Morehouse College class of 2013 in Atlanta, Ga., Sunday.

President Barack Obama on Sunday stressed the importance of personal responsibility and “what it means to be a man” in his commencement address at historically-black Morehouse College in Atlanta.

In the midst of a driving rain, Obama told graduates at the all-male private college that they have obligations to “those still left behind” to be role models for the entire African-American community, both personally and professionally.  

“My whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father wasn’t for my mother and me,” Obama said, referring to his own dad who left his family when the president was just a baby. “I want to break that cycle where a father’s not at home, where a father’s not helping to raise that son and daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.”

The speech was strikingly more personal than the commencement he delivered two weeks early at The Ohio State University when he called on graduates to be engaged citizens. On Sunday, Obama emphasized to the some 500 graduating men of Moreouse to “keep setting an example for what it means to be a man,” praising students who worked multiple jobs to earn a degree while also supporting a family.

He celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Morehouse alumnus, whose legacy has opened doors for graduates that have never before existed.

“Laws and hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks just like you can somehow come to serve as president of these Unites States of America,” he said.

Though opportunities exist now that never have before for black men, the president warned that the legacy of discrimination is still an issue the college graduates will need to overcome.

“Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing,” Obama said.

“But there is no longer any room for excuses,” he added.

The day before, First Lady Michelle Obama took to the commencement circuit, speaking to outgoing seniors at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High School in Tennessee on Saturday.

“Do not waste a minute living someone else’s dream…It takes a lot of work, a lot of real work to discover what brings you joy,” she told graduates.  “It just doesn’t happen; it requires you spending some time.  And you won’t find what you love simply by checking boxes or padding your GPA.”

A week earlier she told graduates at Eastern Kentucky University to get outside their comfort zones and spend time with those who have opposing views.

The president has one more upcoming commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday.