- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 7, 2016

President Obama said Saturday that young blacks in America enjoy much more freedom and opportunity than when he was growing up.

Delivering the commencement address at Howard University in Washington, Mr. Obama alluded to the Black Lives Matter movement and other demonstrations against inequality.

“Given the current state of political rhetoric and debate, let me say something that may sound controversial,” Mr. Obama said. “America is a better place today than it was when I graduated from college.”

The president acknowledged that “racism persists, inequality persists. But I wanted the class of 2016 to open your eyes to the moment you are in.”

“Race relations are better since I graduated. That’s the truth,” Mr. Obama said. “No, my election did not create a post-racial society. I don’t know who was propagating that notion, but that was not mine.”

The speech showed that Mr. Obama also is itching to make the case, as he prepares to leave office, that the country is better off than when he was elected. He said the U.S. “also happens to be better off than when I took office, but that’s a longer story.”

“That’s a discussion for another speech,” he said.

The mostly black audience, which had greeted the president with chants of “four more years,” cheered and applauded.

Mr. Obama also chastised the graduates for not voting in large enough numbers, saying they shouldn’t take the right to vote for granted.

“You don’t have to risk your life to cast a ballot,” Mr. Obama said. “Someone already did that for you. What’s your excuse?”

It was the first of three commencement speeches the president will deliver this season. Mr. Obama also will speak at Rutgers University in New Jersey and at the Air Force Academy.

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