The Washington Post notes today that though President Obama’s commencement address at Morehouse College received a “rousing response” from the audience, some of his African-American supporters are less than pleased. Amazingly, they argue that the President has devoted too much time to discussions of black accountability and responsibility. They also suggest that Jesse Jackson has more credibility than the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan on appropriate messages for the black community, that the president is posturing for white folks when he delivers his message, and that he needs to spend more time challenging “the system” and taking responsibility for black people and less time urging them to take responsibility for themselves.
I think that President Obama’s message – and particularly his discussion of fatherlessness – is just what the doctor ordered. And the criticism that his message is all right but needs to be delivered less frequently brings to mind this story: The search committee for a church was looking for a new minister to replace the retiring one. It visited another church where a young pastor gave such a moving sermon on the wages of sin that he was hired on the spot. The next Sunday, at his new church, the pastor gave exactly the same sermon. The committee was somewhat taken aback, but decided that, well, it was a new church and a different congregation, after all, so no harm in him giving the sermon to this audience. But then, the next Sunday, he gave the same sermon again. So, at this point, the committee met with the pastor and suggested that he talk about something else. And he replied, “But they’re still sinning.”