Without the springtime rituals of traditional graduation ceremonies, former President Barack Obama delivered a virtual commencement address on Saturday, urging thousands of graduates at historically black colleges and universities “to seize the initiative” at a time when he says the nation’s leaders have fumbled the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The speech combined the inspirational advice given to graduates with pointed criticism of the handling of a public health crisis that has killed more than 87,000 Americans and crippled much of the economy.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Mr. Obama said in an address streamed online. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
It was one of his few public addresses to a national audience during the outbreak, and he said a leadership void had created a clear mandate for the graduates: “If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” he said.