I’m sure other people will have more insightful things to say about Obama’s speech to Morehouse College’s graduation today [official transcript here, one copy of the video here]. But let me just point out the juxtaposition of what seemed like serious heteronormativity with whatever the opposite of heteronormativity is.
He opened with jokes about the rain, including this:
I see some moms and grandmas here, aunts, in their Sunday best — although they are upset about their hair getting messed up.
And he gave several references to what it is to “be a man” — such as, “a family man, and a working man, and a Morehouse Man,” and, referencing previous Morehouse graduates…
…what it means to be a man — to serve your city like Maynard Jackson; to shape the culture like Spike Lee; to be like Chester Davenport, one of the first people to integrate the University of Georgia Law School.
And then there was this:
Keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife, or your boyfriend or your partner [some response, and he wags his finger at them.] Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important.
That’s my transcription from the video at 22:17. For whatever reason, this passage has been transcribed incorrectly by some people. The White House website quotes it as:
Be the best husband to your wife, or you’re your boyfriend, or your partner.
While USA Today had it as:
“Be the best husband to your wife, or boyfriend to your partner.”
Anyway, he also had an interesting passage on what it means to be an outsider in America:
As Morehouse Men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share. Hispanic Americans know that feeling when somebody asks them where they come from or tell them to go back. Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love that they share. Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work — she knows what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need.
Including “gay and lesbian Americans” in that list of outsiders isn’t shocking anymore. But I was intrigued by his reference to “parenting skills.” Could it be a nod to the Regnerus affair, in which the parenting outcomes of gays and lesbians were at issue?