Symbolism: Morehouse Students Graduate in the Rain


Photo source and quote: NBC News
“Graduate Leland Shelton is congratulated as he is acknowledged by President Obama during the commencement address at Morehouse College. After a difficult childhood, Shelton is graduating Phi Beta Kappa and is on his way to Harvard Law School.”

Morehouse College is the alma mater of Rev. Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr., and this past Sunday President Obama addressed the graduating class of 2013.

There has been some discussion over why measures weren’t taken to protect the students from the heavy rains during the ceremony.

This quote from Facebook presents a very interesting perspective as to why every part of that day was deeply meaningful to our country and the continued progress of human rights:

This picture of Morehouse graduates drenched in rain yesterday has surprisingly caused quite a stir. Many are saying it’s indicative of Morehouse not having the money or common decency to implement a rain plan. If you see that when you look at this picture, I’m going to politely take the liberty to call you a cynic. To me this picture symbolizes the journey that so many black men endure everyday of their lives as they face countless obstacles yet continue to pursue success with unwavering determination. It is cynical to ignore the fortitude and thirst for knowledge in these men’s eyes for an opportunity to knock/shade/read Morehouse. Rain can’t stop the House, & life’s obstacles won’t stop these men.

FYI: Grads from major universities are soaked like this all the time with no controversy. -source


What do you think?


  1. There is so much I want to say about this and I know I will do a horrible job doing it… but I will spend some time deconstructing my response.

    I think we poetically read into images what we like. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the ideas are for good and not for harm.

    I do have strong opinions about this person’s understanding of the plight of black men. Not all black men come from the economically disadvantaged homes. Not all black men get raptured up in an oppressive culture. I understand the statics of our prisons and THERE ARE some issues. But, do not look for racial issues where racial issues are not present – it is like “crying wolf”.

    Black men are not the only ones who have a mountain to climb or an unfair load to bare. I have a multiracial family and from every ethnicity I mark on the census (now that I can do that), there is a troubled past. As a matter of fact, the black men in my family faced the least amount of obvious unfair burdens and every single one of them are well-educated and sophisticated individuals. I admire these men (and women) – and not because of their fortitude to push ahead in prejudicial circumstances. I admire these family members because they are human beings who exude everything I have always wanted to be. There “plight” was no different than mine in terms of there being the human condition to battle around every corner.

    Being a Georgian most of my life and going to college in Atlanta, I am pretty sure the weather foresight of this university was lacking and they were probably wanting the setting to be perfect with the president’s appearance. (A musty old gym does NOT appeal in most cases.) These two issues are probably closer to the truth than the facebook quote expresses. Again, there is nothing wrong with a poetic interpretation within the confines of empowerment, but understanding the truth behind what we see is just as important and grounds us to reality.

  2. I too am a black man who has been prepped over the years to make a fair and correct assessment to both images and audibles that I perceive. It’s hard to fathom that these brilliant men would not make a commotion had these conditions been a factor. Unfortunately we live in a world who would much rather see the glass half empty rather than half full. May God bless these individuals and many more as the best is yet to come, through trials.

  3. I wouldn’t have come up with any racial undertones to this picture. I went to OSU and the rain plan for graduation was “dress for rain.” It’s a nice photo of a nice moment, and I’ll bet everyone in it will remember it.

    • I wanted to verify this is still the case, and this is what the commencement website for this year says: “What if it rains? The ceremony will take place as scheduled. If rain is predicted, guests may want to bring a hat and/or rain poncho, or other types of covering. Umbrellas are not permitted in Reser Stadium.”

  4. shewit ...(wheat, not wit)

    Rather than insert my opinion and three cents, I went to one of my field study colleagues who is a Man Of Morehouse and this is what he had this to say about the graduation in the rain, “You didn’t see the graduates complaining did you? That’s because Rain Don’t Stop The House-Sleep Don’t Stop The House…..that’s what we men of Morehouse live by because that’s what transitions us from Morehouse Men into Men of Morehouse!” So, coming from the voice of a man who has walked the traditional path behind the drummers, yeah, sitting through and graduating in the rain points to the struggles African American men have faced since docking yet moving beyond the uncomfortable just to set the record straight about the greatness within them. Nicole, I respectfully disagree with you. If you have time, read or listen to Dr. Joy Degruy speak on PTSD and African Americans forced into slavery to begin to grasp the plight of AA men and women. ***Congratulations to Betesegaw Tadele Morehouse Valedictorian 2013—-hailing from Mother Country Addis Abebe, Ethiopia***

  5. I graduated in sunny Southern California where it rarely rains in May but even our university had a contingency plan for rain, which was the university gym. In a place like Atlanta where it rains a lot there’s no excuse not to have an alternate plan in case it rains

  6. I went to Brown University in Providence, where it rains a lot. We had no alternate plans for bad weather. Why do people think that is due to poor planning? We simply value our traditions (very complicated set of processions that include ALL alumni classes).

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