President Obama’s commencement address at Howard University was examined in a prior post. The key points in Obama’s speech for this evaluation are the following:
- “Be confident in your heritage. Be confident in your blackness.”
- African Americans have a “particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle. That means we cannot sleepwalk through life. We cannot be ignorant of history. . . . We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.”
- “You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. . . . [C]hange requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing.”
Now we evaluate a prominent contemporary African-American, Bryan Stevenson through the prism of that speech.
Although not a Howard alumnus, Stevenson, as discussed in another post, is an African-American attorney, author and activist for social justice, especially for today’s African-American men and women and for their ancestors who were enslaved and persecuted. He has successfully argued cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts for prison inmates and written and spoken for changes in our criminal justice system. In addition, he has organized and established the Equal Justice Initiative (CJI), a significant human rights/civil rights law firm in Montgomery, Alabama that is being joined by a museum honoring the victims of slavery and lynchings.
In so doing, Stevenson is demonstrating confidence in his own heritage, his own blackness, as President Obama urged the graduates. Stevenson also shows his awareness of injustice, unfairness and struggle that he combines with a strategy of change through the courts and public opinion. He meets the standards set forth by President Obama.
Give thanks to God for this good man!