Herbert Hoover photo

Commencement Address at Howard University.

June 10, 1932

IT IS AN INSPIRATION to come into this great institution of higher education for the Negro race. Nothing that the Federal Government has done reflects more credit upon it for the meeting of an obligation than this institution to bring to a great segment of our population the means of overcoming a handicap for which they were not responsible and of leveling upward for them an equal opportunity to share in the full measure of citizenship with their brethren of other races.

It is vital in a democracy that the public opinion upon which it rests shall be an informed and educated opinion. The Negro race comprises 10 percent of our population, and unless this 10 percent is developed proportionately with the rest of the population, it cannot pull its proper strength at the oars of our pressing problems of democracy. To provide this development requires trained leadership, and I conceive that to be the function of Howard University. You are providing here professional training in all those fields to which the community naturally looks for leadership--religion, law, medicine, education, science, art. You are providing this professional training to men and women of the colored race, to your own best talents, your own leaders by natural endowment. Through the instruction which they receive here, your natural leaders become trained leaders, and this training is of the same kinds and of equal efficiency with that which is provided for the natural leaders of the white race. By this process, the colored people are being integrated fully into the broad stream of the national life, sharing in the obligation and opportunity for political service, for economic advancement, for educational development of the individual, and for enjoyment of all the benefits of science and art and general culture, including skilled medical service, more beautiful home surroundings, and a share in the intellectual progress of mankind.

These things are the natural right of the citizens of a republic. The Federal Government has nobly acknowledged its duty to provide them here.

I congratulate the graduating class upon completing their studies with credit, and I congratulate the Negro race upon your efforts to prepare yourselves for leadership in their development. I wish you well in your careers upon which you now embark.

Note: The President spoke at 2:30 p.m. on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C.

A reading copy of this item with holograph changes by the President is available for examination at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.

Herbert Hoover, Commencement Address at Howard University. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207033

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