Hispanic Americans, Obama said, are told to "go back" home while strangers pass judgment on the parenting skills of gay men and lesbians or stare at Muslim Americans with suspicion.
He said that too many young black men make "bad choices."
"Growing up, I made quite a few myself," Obama said. "Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency to make excuses for me not doing the right thing."
But, the president implored, "We've got no time for excuses."
"In today's hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil, many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did, all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven't earned," he said. "Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination."
"Moreover," Obama said, "you have to remember that whatever you've gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured - and if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too."
Obama told the graduates they needed to be role models for others in their communities and not just chase after high-paying jobs and fancy cars. If they get a law degree, he told the graduates, they shouldn't only defend the powerful, but also the powerless. If they get an MBA and start a business, Obama said, they shouldn't merely try to make money but also consider the broader purpose their business might serve.
"No one expects you to take a vow of poverty," Obama said. "But I will say it betrays a poverty of ambition if all you think about is what goods you can buy instead of what good you can do."