Full Text Political Transcripts May 17, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 5-17-17

Coast Guard Academy
New London, Connecticut

11:50 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2017.  Great job.

And, General Kelly, I want to thank you for your leadership as the Coast Guard’s Service Secretary.  You’ve really been something very, very special to us as a country, and to me and our administration.  You’ve done throughout your entire life an incredible job defending your country.  Thank you very much, John.  (Applause.)

And John and all of his folks are also doing an incredible job protecting our homeland and our border.  And I’m thrilled that my first address to the Service Academy is the graduation ceremony for the United States Coast Guard.  Believe me, it’s a great honor.  (Applause.)  I’ve been here before and it’s a very, very special place.  Every cadet graduating today, as your Commander-in-Chief, it is truly my honor to welcome you aboard.  (Applause.)  And you should take a moment to celebrate this incredible achievement.

Governor Malloy, thank you for being here.  Governor, thank you.  We’re glad you could join us.  And I know how busy the governors are nowadays, and they’re out there fighting.  It’s never easy.  Budgets are a little tight, but we’re doing a job, all of us are doing a job, working together.

I want to also thank Admiral Zookunft and his leadership.  His leadership has been amazing.  Today’s graduates will be fortunate to serve under such capable and experienced Commandant. He really is fantastic.

Thanks also to Admiral Rendon, the Academy Superintendent.  Admiral, I understand you come from a true Coast Guard family.  Two brothers, a nephew, a cousin have all passed through these halls.  That’s very impressive.  I guess you like the place, right?  (Applause.)  Somebody in your family has been doing something right, I can tell you that.  I’m sure they all are very proud, just as we are very proud of the fine young officers who are graduating today, Admiral, on your watch.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all of the parents and the grandparents and family members who have supported these amazing graduates.  Give your parents and everyone a hand.  Come on.  (Applause.)  Because America has families like yours, and we’ll keep all of those families safe and very, very secure.  You’re keeping your families safe now.

If you are not already, you’re about to become military families.  So, starting today, I hope you feel the full gratitude of our nation.  These fine young cadets are about to take their rightful place on the front line of defense for the United States of America.  Cadets, you deserve not only the congratulations but the gratitude of each and every American, and we all salute you. (Applause.)  A proud nation.  And you’re a part of a very, very proud nation which salutes the 195 199 cadets of the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017.  Good job.  (Applause.)

And I understand from the admirals that this has been a very special class.  You’ve been trained here to handle the toughest of situations, the hardest of moments really that you can experience, and the hardest in people’s lives, and to help the weak in their hour of need.  But even for the Coast Guard, this class has been exceptionally dedicated to public service.

You served breakfast at the local food bank every single weekday.  You rebuilt a home with Habitat for Humanity.  Last year, you led cadets in donating a total of 24,000 hours — a lot of time — to community service.  You’ve done amazing work.  And in the true Coast Guard fashion, you had fewer people and fewer resources, but you accomplished the objectives, and you did it with skill and with pride — and, I’d like to say, under budget and ahead of schedule.  We’re doing a lot of that now in the United States government.  (Applause.)  We’re doing a lot of that.

I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet.  I won’t even talk about it.  Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier.  That had a little bit of an overrun problem before I got here, you know that.  Still going to have an overrun problem.  We came in when it was finished.  But we’re going to save some good money.  And when we build the new aircraft carriers they’re going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule, just remember that.  (Applause.)  That will allow us to build more.

Now, of course, there are always a few slip-ups from time to time — you know that.  For example, I understand that once or twice, First Class Cadet Bruce Kim — where’s Bruce?  (Applause.) Where’s Bruce?  Oh, Bruce, how do you do this to yourself, Bruce? (Laughter.)  As Regimental Parking Officer, might have accidentally caused a few tickets to be issued or a few of your cars to be booted.  Bruce, what’s going on with you?  (Laughter.)

But, Cadets, from this day forward, we want everyone to have a clean slate in life.  That includes Bruce, right? (Laughter.) And so, for any oversights or small violations that might have occurred this year, as tradition demands, I hereby absolve every cadet serving restrictions for minor offenses.

Now, Bruce — stand up once again, Bruce.  (Laughter.)  They saved you, Bruce, because they all wanted me to do that, okay?  Thank you, Bruce.  Congratulations, Bruce.  (Applause.)  Good job.  By the way, Bruce, don’t worry about it.  That’s the tradition.  I was forced to do that.  You know that.  Don’t worry.  (Laughter.)

This is truly an amazing group of cadets that are here today for commission.  You could have gone to school anywhere you wanted — and with very, very few responsibilities by comparison. Instead, you chose the path of service.  You chose hard work, high standards, and a very noble mission — to save lives, defend the homeland, and protect America’s interests around the world.  You chose the Coast Guard.  Good choice.  Good choice.  (Applause.)

You’ve learned skills they don’t teach at other schools right here on the grounds of this academy and also on your larger campus — the open sea.  That is a large, large campus, isn’t it? A beautiful campus.  But the greatest lesson you’ve learned at this proud institution is the knowledge you’ve learned about yourself.  It’s the knowledge that each and every one of you is something very special — you are leaders.

From the first stormy days of your Swab Summer to your final weeks as a first class cadet, you have been expected to take responsibility, to make decisions, and to act.  And I — like all leaders, that’s exactly what you have to do.  You have to act, and you have to act properly.  And you have to learn how to act under great, great pressure.  You’re all going to be under great pressure.  You have to learn how to respond and to act under great pressure.

Just days from now, you will put this vital skill into the service of your ships, your sectors, and your country.  You’ll serve as deck watch officers on our amazing Coast Guard cutters. You’ll bring law and order to the dangerous waters as boating officers.  You will block illegal shipments of cash, weapons and drugs.  You will battle the scourge of human trafficking — something that people haven’t been talking about.  One of the big, big plagues of the world.  Not our country only — the world.  Human trafficking.

Americans will place their trust in your leadership, just as they have trusted in generations of Coast Guard men and women, with respect for your skill, with awe at your courage, and with the knowledge that you will always be ready.  You are Always Ready.

Not only will our citizens trust in your leadership, your commanders will trust you as well.  The Coast Guard is the gold standard in delegating decision-making down to chain command.  So just as your instructors have at the academy, your Coast Guard commanders will explain their vision, and then they will trust you to get the job done.  Just like I, as your President, will also trust you to get the job done.

It’s amazing to think of the adventures that are about to begin for you.  Across the country this month, millions of other students are graduating high school, college.  Many others are wondering, just what am I going to do.  They’re saying to themselves, what are they going to do.  You know what you’re going to do.  Many, many students are graduating from college right now.  They’re saying, what am I going to do?  Where am I going to go to work?  You know it.  You picked a good one, by the way.  You picked a beautiful one, a good one, and we’re really proud to have you, I can tell you.  (Applause.)

Years from now, some of them may look back and ask themselves whether they’ve made the right choice, whether they’ve made the most of the opportunities they’ve been given.  In the Coast Guard, you will face many challenges and many threats, but one thing you will never have to face is that question of what will I do.  When you look back, you won’t doubt.  You know exactly how you spent your time — saving lives.

I look at your admirals, I look at General Kelly, I look at some of the great people in service, and I want to tell you, they’re excited about life.  They love what they do.  They love the country.  They love protecting our country, and they love what they do.  Is that right?  Good.  I didn’t think anyone was going to say no.  (Laughter.)  That would have ruined our speech, right?  (Laughter.)  They’re great people.

You always know just what you’ll be:  the leaders and officers of the United States Coast Guard.  (Applause.)

And when they see your uniform, everyone in the world will know exactly what that means.  What standard — and really if you think of it, when you talk about the great sailors, and the great sailors of the world, we have them.  But what stranded sailor doesn’t feel relief when those red racing stripes break the horizon?  What drifting soul at sea, with only a short time left to live, doesn’t rejoice at the sound of those chopper blades overhead, coming back and coming down to rescue them from death? What poison-peddling drug runner, the scourge of our country, doesn’t tremble with fear when the might of the Coast Guard comes bearing down on them?  In each case, we know the reason –America’s lifesaving service is on the way.  The Coast Guard is truly vital to the United States Armed Forces and truly vital to our great country.  (Applause.)

Out of the five branches of our Armed Services, it’s only the Coast Guard that has the power to break through 21 feet of rock-solid Arctic ice, right?  You’re the only ones.  And I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years.  We’re going to build many of them.  (Applause.)  We need them.  We need them.

The Coast Guard stands watch at our ports, patrols our waterways, and protects our infrastructure.  You defend America in a world of massive and very grave threats.  Soon, some of you will be leading boardings of suspicious vessels, searching for the most deadly weapons, and detaining criminals to keep our people safe.  Others of you will work with partners in scores of countries around the globe, bringing in the full power of the United States Coast Guard right up to those distant shores.  And some of those shores are very far away.

To secure our borders from drug cartels, human smugglers, and terrorist threats, Coast Guard Cutters patrol more than 1,500 miles below our southern border.  A lot of people didn’t know that.  When enormous pride hits your heart, you realize that it’s with this great skill and tremendous speed, our Coast Guard men and women interdict dangerous criminals and billions and billions of dollars’ worth of illegal narcotics every single year.  Your helicopters launch from the decks of world-class national security cutters, and they chase drug smugglers at speeds far in excess of 50 knots.

In rough seas, at high speeds, our incredible Coast Guard snipers take their aim at the smugglers’ engines.  And time after time, they take out the motors on the first shot.  They don’t like wasting the bullets, right?  (Applause.)  They actually don’t.  Your slice through roaring storms, and through pouring rain and crashing waves is a place where few other people will ever venture — exciting.  Exciting.  But you have to have it in your heart.  You have to love it.  You love it.

In the Coast Guard, you don’t run from danger, you chase it. And you are deployed in support of operations in theaters of conflict all around the world.  But not only do you defend American security, you also protect American prosperity.  It’s a mission that goes back to the earliest days of the Revenue Cutter Service.  You’ve read about that and studied that.

Today, the Coast Guard helps keep our waters open for Americans to do business.  It keeps our rivers flowing with commerce.  And it keeps our ports churning with American exports. You help billions and billions of dollars in goods to navigate our country every day.  You are the only federal presence on our inland waterways.  You police the arteries we need to rebuild this country and to bring prosperity back to our heartland.  And we are becoming very, very prosperous again.  You can see that.

Think of the glorious mission that awaits.  You will secure our harbors, our waterways, and our borders.  You will partner with our allies to advance our security interests at home and abroad.  And you will pursue the terrorists, you will stop the drug smugglers, and you will seek to keep out all who would do harm to our country — all who can never, ever love our country. Together, we have the same mission, and your devotion and dedication makes me truly proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

Now, I want to take this opportunity to give you some advice.  Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair.  You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted.  But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight.  Never, ever, ever give up.  Things will work out just fine.

Look at the way I’ve been treated lately — (laughter) — especially by the media.  No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.  You can’t let them get you down.  You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.  (Applause.)  I guess that’s why I — thank you.  I guess that’s why we won.

Adversity makes you stronger.  Don’t give in.  Don’t back down.  And never stop doing what you know is right.  Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy.  And the more righteous your right, the more opposition that you will face.

I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as President.  Jobs pouring back in to our country.  A brand-new Supreme Court justice — who’s going to be fantastic for 45 years — (applause) — a historic investment in our military.  Border crossings — thank you to our General — are down more than 70 percent in just a short period of time — a total record, by the way, by a lot.  (Applause.)  We’ve saved the Second Amendment, expanded service for our veterans — we are going to take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before.  (Applause.)

I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy, chains so tight that you couldn’t do anything — that jobs were going down.  We were losing business.  We’re loosening it up.  We’ve begun plans and preparations for the border wall, which is going along very, very well.  We’re working on major tax cuts for all.  We are going to give you the largest tax cut in the history of our country if we get it the way we want it, and we’re going to give you major tax reform.  (Applause.)  And we’re also getting closer and closer, day by day, to great healthcare for our citizens.  (Applause.)

And we are setting the stage right now for many, many more things to come.  And the people understand what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing.  I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests.  I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing.  (Applause.)  I will never stop fighting for you, and I will never stop fighting for the American people.

As you leave this academy to embark on your exciting new voyage, I am heading on a very crucial journey as well.  In a few days, I will make my first trip abroad as President.  With the safety, security, and interests of the American people as my priority, I will strengthen old friendships and will seek new partners — but partners who also help us.  Not partners who take and take and take, partners who help, and partners who help pay for whatever we are doing and all of the good we’re doing for them — which is something that a lot of people have not gotten used to and they just can’t get used to it.  I say, get used to it, folks.  (Applause.)  I’ll ask them to unite for a future of peace and opposition opportunity for our peoples and the peoples of the world.

First, in Saudi Arabia, where I’ll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith.  And they’re looking very much forward to hearing what we — as your representative — we have to say.  We have to stop radical Islamic terrorism.  (Applause.)

Then in Israel, I’ll reaffirm our unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state.  In Rome, I will talk with Pope Francis about the contributions of Christian teachings to the world.  Finally, I’ll attend the NATO Summit in Brussels and the G7 in Sicily — to promote security, prosperity and peace all over the world.

I’ll meet scores of leader, and honor the holiest sites of these three great religions.  And everywhere I go, I will carry the inspiration I take from you each day, from your courage and determination to do whatever is required save and protect American lives.  Save and protect American lives.  We want security.  You’re going to give us security.  (Applause.)

In just one example, we see how priceless that gift of life is to the people you touch every day.  A few years ago, a Coast Guard helicopter and rescue swimmer took off in the direction of three terrified fishermen who clung to their sinking and burning vessel.  That day, our Coast Guard heroes did their jobs well.  They flew over the sea, despite tremendous danger, and extended a helping hand at the moment it was most urgently needed.  There was very little time left.

But that’s not the most remarkable part of that story.  As one Coast Guard swimmer put it, you do that stuff all the time.  You do it every hour of the day.  Something is happening all the time with the United States Coast Guard.  You do an amazing job. A remarkable thing happened with that rescue, but when you think of it, you do those rescues all the time.  There, the Vietnamese fishing captain grabbed the swimmer’s hand.  He looked his Coast Guard rescuer in the eye, and said: “I was asking God to please let me live….I need to see my kids. Please, God, please, let me live so that I can see my kids.  Then God sent me you.”  That’s what he said.  (Applause.)

To every new officer, and to every new Coast Guard member here today, or out protecting life around the world on some of the roughest waters anywhere, you truly are doing God’s work.  What a grateful heart you must all have.  Because it is with my very grateful heart, and America’s cheers for the Coast Guard — and America cheers for you often — but we wish you good luck.

As your Commander-in-Chief, I thank you.  I salute you.  And I, once again, congratulate the Coast Guard Class of 2017.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless the Coast Guard.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you, everybody.  Great honor.  Good luck.  Enjoy your life.  (Applause.)

END
12:18 P.M. EDT

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Full Text Obama Presidency June 9, 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama’s at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School Commencement Address Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School Commencement Address

Source: WH, 6-9-15

Chicago State University Convocation Hall

Chicago, Illinois

7:44 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Wow!  (Applause.)  Yes!

STUDENT:  We love you so much, Michelle!

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, I love you guys!  (Applause.)  Look, I am beyond excited to be here with the winners of our first-ever FAFSA Video Challenge, the King College Prep Class of 2015!  (Applause.)

So let me just explain, because you all know some of the best schools in the country submitted videos for this challenge.  But when I saw your Scandal video, let me tell you, I was blown away.  I was just blown away with — amazing.  I was blown away by your creativity, but I was even more blown away by how hard you all worked to achieve your outstanding FAFSA completion rate here at KCP.  In fact, as you saw, I was so impressed that I decided to send your video to the cast of the real Scandal.  And they were so impressed that Shonda* Rhimes and Kerry Washington and the whole staff, they wanted to be a part of this graduation.  And I want to thank Libby, because she was the only one who knew.  She kept the secret.  So let’s give the cast of Scandal another round of applause.  Wasn’t that wonderful?  (Applause.)  That’s how special you all are.  That is just how special you all are.

And I want to thank Libby for that wonderful introduction.  I want to thank Jostens for their generosity.  And, of course, I want to honor the Pendleton family for their courage and their grace and their love.  I love these folks.  (Applause.)  Hadiya’s memory is truly a blessing and an inspiration to me and to my husband and to people across this country and around the world.  And we are so grateful for her family’s presence here tonight.  Love you all.  Love you so much.  (Applause.)

I also want to acknowledge President Watson, Provost Henderson, Jesse Ruiz, as well as the fabulous singers — way to go, guys!  (Applause.)  And our musicians, the best band in the land.  (Applause.)  And all of the amazing student speakers — you guys did such a phenomenal job.  You’re amazing.  (Applause.)

And of course, I want to give a big shoutout to Principal Narain for his outstanding leadership.  Yes.  (Applause.)  He made sure my speech was up here, so I thank him for that.  (Laughter.)  But also, to the phenomenal teachers, the administrators, the school counselors, the staff who pushed you, who inspired you, who hunted you down in the hallway to fill out your FAFSA forms — well done.  (Laughter and applause.)

And, graduates, I think we’ve got to give another show of love to the parents, the guardians, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the siblings — (applause) — everyone else who has been there for you throughout your lives — the folks who shook you out of bed in the morning, and didn’t let you go to sleep until your homework was done; the folks who believed in you; the folks who sacrificed for you and loved you even when you drove them crazy.  Today is their day too.  Let’s give them a round of applause.  (Applause.)  Yes!  That’s it, blow kisses.  That’s right, mom.  Take your bow.

And of course, most of all, to the class of 2015 — you all, congratulations.  You did it!  You did it!  You are here!  You are here!   (Applause.)  And you all look so good, so glamorous, so handsome.  But just think about how hard you worked to make it to this day — stayed up late studying, working on those college essays, preparing for those ACTs.  I understand that you threw yourselves into your activities as well — the Jaguars won the Division 3A basketball regional championship.  (Applause.)  Pretty nice.  The best band in the land performed with Jennifer Hudson — really?  Jennifer Hudson?  J-Hud? — and at the NFL Draft.  (Applause.)  I hear you all lit up the stage with Shrek the Musical — (applause) — Spring Concert I heard was pretty nice.  But you all truly honored Dr. King’s legacy with your commitment to service-learning.

So, graduates, tonight, I am feeling so proud of you.  I am feeling so excited for you.  I am feeling so inspired by you.  But there is one thing that I’m not feeling right now, and that is surprised.  I am not at all surprised by how accomplished you all are.  (Applause.)  I’m not at all surprised by the dedication your teachers have shown, or by the sacrifices your families have made to carry you to this day.  I’m not surprised because I know this community.

I was born and raised here on the South Side, in South Shore, and I am who I am today because of this community.  (Applause.)  I know the struggles many of you face — how you walk the long way home to avoid the gangs.  How you fight to concentrate on your homework when there’s too much noise at home.  How you keep it together when your families are having hard times making ends meet.

But more importantly, I also know the strengths of this community.  I know the families on the South Side.  And while they may come in all different shapes and sizes, most families here are tight, bound together by the kind of love that gets stronger when it’s tested.

I know that folks on the South Side work hard — the kind of hard where you forget about yourself and you just worry about your kids, doing everything it takes — juggling two and three jobs, taking long bus rides to the night shift, scraping pennies together to sign those kids up for every activity you can afford — Park District program, the Praise Dance Ministries — whatever it takes to keep them safe and on the right track.  And I know that in this community, folks have a deep faith, a powerful faith, and folks are there for each other when times get hard, because we understand that “there but for the grace of God go I.”  (Applause.)

And over the past six years as First Lady, I’ve visited communities just like this one all across this country — communities that face plenty of challenges and crises, but where folks have that same strong work ethic, those same good values, those same big dreams for their kids.

But unfortunately, all those positive things hardly ever make the evening news.  Instead, the places where we’ve grown up only make headlines when something tragic happens — when someone gets shot, when the dropout rate climbs, when some new drug is ruining people’s lives.

So too often, we hear a skewed story about our communities — a narrative that says that a stable, hardworking family in a neighborhood like Woodlawn or Chatham or Bronzeville is somehow remarkable; that a young person who graduates from high school and goes to college is a beat-the-odds kind of hero.

Look, I can’t tell you how many times people have met my mother and asked her, “Well, how on Earth did you ever raise kids like Michelle and Craig in a place like South Shore?”  And my mom looks at these folks like they’re crazy, and she says, “Michelle and Craig are nothing special.  There are millions of Craigs and Michelles out there.  And I did the same thing that all those other parents did.”  She says, “I loved them.  I believed in them.  And I didn’t take any nonsense from them.”  (Applause.)

And I’m here tonight because I want people across this country to know that story — the real story of the South Side.  The story of that quiet majority of good folks — families like mine and young people like all of you who face real challenges but make good choices every single day.  (Applause.)  I’m here tonight because I want you all to know, graduates, that with your roots in this community and your education from this school, you have everything — you hear me, everything — you need to succeed.  (Applause.)

And I’m here tonight because I want to share with you just two fundamental lessons that I’ve learned in my own life, lessons grounded in the courage, love and faith that define this community and that I continue to live by to this day.

Now, the first lesson is very simple, and that is, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.  And I cannot stress that enough.  During your four years here at King College Prep, you all were surrounded by folks who were determined to help you, as Jade said — teachers who stayed after class to explain an assignment, counselors who pushed you to apply to college, coaches who saw something special in you that no one had seen before.

And as you head to college or the military, or whatever else comes next, you will face plenty of obstacles.  There will be times when you find yourself struggling.  And at first, you might not know where to turn to for help.  Or maybe you might be too embarrassed to ask.  And trust me, I know how that feels.

See, when I started my freshman year at Princeton, I felt totally overwhelmed and out of place.  I had never spent any meaningful time on a college campus.  I had never been away from home for an extended period of time.  I had no idea how to choose my classes, to — how to take notes in a large lecture.  And then I looked around at my classmates, and they all seemed so happy and comfortable and confident.  They never seemed to question whether they belonged at a school like Princeton.

So at first, I didn’t tell a soul how anxious and lonely and insecure I was feeling.  But as I got to know my classmates, I realized something important.  I realized that they were all struggling with something, but instead of hiding their struggles and trying to deal with them all alone, they reached out.  They asked for help.  If they didn’t understand something in class, they would raise their hand and ask a question, then they’d go to professor’s office hours and ask even more questions.  And they were never embarrassed about it, not one bit.  Because they knew that that’s how you succeed in life.

See, growing up, they had the expectation that they would succeed, and that they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals.  So whether it was taking an SAT-prep class, getting a math tutor, seeking advice from a teacher or counselor — they took advantage of every opportunity they had.

So I decided to follow their lead.  I found an advisor who helped me choose my classes.  I went to the multicultural student center and met older students who became my mentor.  And soon enough, I felt like I had this college thing all figured out.  And, graduates, wherever you are headed, I guarantee you that there will be all kinds of folks who are eager to help you, but they are not going to come knocking on your door to find you.  You have to take responsibility to find them.  (Applause.)

So if you are struggling with an assignment, go to a tutoring session.  If you’re having trouble with a paper, get yourself to the writing center.  And if someone isn’t helpful, if they are impatient or unfriendly, then just find somebody else.  You may have to go to a second, or third, or a fourth person but if you keep asking.  (Applause.)  And if you understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, then I guarantee you that you will get what you need to succeed.

And that brings me to the other big lesson that I want to share with you today.  It’s a lesson about how to get through those struggles, and that is, instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you.  Let them make you even hungrier to succeed.

Now, I know that many of you have already dealt with some serious losses in your lives.  Maybe someone in your family lost a job or struggled with drugs or alcohol or an illness.  Maybe you’ve lost someone you love, someone you desperately wish could be here with you tonight.  And I know that many of you are thinking about Hadiya right now and feeling the hole that she’s left in your hearts.

So, yes, maybe you’ve been tested a lot more and a lot earlier in life than many other young people.  Maybe you have more scars than they do.  Maybe you have days when you feel more tired than someone your age should ever really feel.  But, graduates, tonight, I want you to understand that every scar that you have is a reminder not just that you got hurt, but that you survived.  (Applause.)  And as painful as they are, those holes we all have in our hearts are what truly connect us to each other.  They are the spaces we can make for other people’s sorrow and pain, as well as their joy and their love so that eventually, instead of feeling empty, our hearts feel even bigger and fuller.

So it’s okay to feel the sadness and the grief that comes with those losses.  But instead of letting those feelings defeat you, let them motivate you.  Let them serve as fuel for your journey.  See, that’s what folks in this community have always done.  Just look at our history.

Take the story of Lorraine Hansberry, who grew up right here on the South Side.  Lorraine was determined to be a playwright, but she struggled to raise the money to produce her first play.  But Lorraine stayed hungry.  And eventually, that play — “A Raisin in the Sun” — became the first play by an African American woman to make it to Broadway.  (Applause.)

And how about Richard Wright, who spent his young adult years on the South Side.  Richard’s father was a sharecropper who abandoned his family.  And while Richard loved to read, the local library wouldn’t let him check out books because he was black.  So Richard went ahead and wrote books of his own — books like “Native Son,” and “Black Boy,” that made him one of the greatest writers in American history.  (Applause.)

And finally, tonight, I’m thinking about my own parents — yes, Marian and Frazier Robinson.  See, neither of them went to college.  They never had much money.  But they were determined to see me and my brother get the best education possible.  So my mom served on the PTA, and she volunteered at school so she could keep an eye on us.

As for my Dad, he worked as a pump operator at the city water plant.  And even after he was diagnosed with MS in his thirties, and it became harder for him to walk and get dressed, he still managed to pull himself out of bed every morning, no matter how sick he felt.  Every day, without fail, I watched my father struggle on crutches to slowly make his way across our apartment, out the door to work, without complaint or self-pity or regret.  (Applause.)

Now, my Dad didn’t live to see me in the White House.  He passed away from complications from his illness when I was in my twenties.  And, graduates, let me tell you, he is the hole in my heart.  His loss is my scar.  But let me tell you something, his memory drives me forward every single day of my life.  (Applause.)  Every day, I work to make him proud.  Every day, I stay hungry, not just for myself, but for him and for my mom and for all the kids I grew up with who never had the opportunities that my family provided for me.

And, graduates, today, I want to urge you all to do the same thing.  There are so many folks in your school and in your families who believe in you, who have sacrificed for you, who have poured all of their love and hope and ambition into you.  And you need to stay hungry for them.  (Applause.)

There are so many young people who can only dream of the opportunities you’ve had at King College Prep — young people in troubled parts of the world who never set foot in a classroom.  Young people in this community who don’t have anyone to support them.  Young people like Hadiya, who were taken from us too soon and can never become who they were meant to be.  You need to stay hungry for them.

And, graduates, look, I know you can do this.  See, because if Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright could stay hungry through their hardships and humiliations; if Dr. Martin Luther King, the namesake of your school, could sacrifice his life for our country, then I know you can show up for a tutoring session.  I know you can go to some office hours.  (Applause.)

If Hadiya’s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in to protest gun violence — then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life.  I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.

Because, graduates, in the end, you all are the ones responsible for changing the narrative about our communities.  (Applause.)  Wherever you go next, wherever you go, you all encounter people who doubt your very existence — folks who believe that hardworking families with strong values don’t exist on the South Side of Chicago, or in Detroit, or in El Paso, or in Indian Country, or in Appalachia.  They don’t believe you are real.

And with every word you speak, with every choice you make, with the way you carry yourself each day, you are rewriting the story of our communities.  And that’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House.  (Applause.)  Because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us, or it can change those myths.  (Applause.)

So, graduates, today, I want you all to join our team as we fight to get out the truth about our communities — about our inner cities and our farm towns, our barrios, our reservations.  You need to help us tell our story — the story of Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright, the story of my family and your families, the story of our sacrifice, our hunger, our hard work.

Graduates, starting today, it is your job to make sure that no one ever again is surprised by who we are and where we come from.  (Applause.)  And you know how I know you can do this?  Because you all — graduates of the King College Prep High School.  You all are from so many proud communities — North Kenwood, Chatham, South Shore, Woodlawn, Hyde Park -– I could go on and on.  You embody all of the courage and love, all of the hunger and hope that have always defined these communities –- our communities.

And I am so proud of you all.  And I stay inspired because of you.  And I cannot wait to see everything you all continue achieve in the years ahead.

So thank you.  God bless you.  I love you all.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

END                  8:08 P.M. CDT

Political Musings May 17, 2015: Bush delivers free speech to SMU graduates jabs Clintons’ $25 million speech fee

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Bush delivers free speech to SMU graduates jabs Clintons’ $25 million speech fee

May 17, 2015

Former President George W. Bush used his commencement address to Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) class of 2015 in Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas on Saturday afternoon, May 16, 2015 to encourage the C students that they too could…

Full Text Obama Presidency May 17, 2015: Vice President Joe Biden’s Yale University Class Day Speech Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the Vice President at Yale University Class Day

Source: WH,  5-17-15

Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

2:55 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:   Hello, Yale!  (Applause.)  Great to see you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you very, very much.

Jeremy and Kiki, the entire Class of 2015, congratulations and thank you for inviting me to be part of this special day.  You’re talented.  You’ve worked hard, and you’ve earned this day.

Mr. President, faculty, staff, it’s an honor to be here with all of you.

My wife teaches full-time.  I want you to know that — at a community college, and has attended 8,640 commencements and/or the similar versions of Class Day, and I know they can hardly wait for the speaker to finish.  (Laughter.)  But I’ll do my best as quickly as I can.

To the parents, grandparents, siblings, family members, the Class of 2015 —- congratulations.  I know how proud you must be. But, the Class of 2015, before I speak to you —- please stand and applaud the ones who loved you no matter what you’re wearing on your head and who really made this day happen.  (Laughter and applause.)   I promise you all this is a bigger day for them than it is for you.  (Laughter.)

When President Obama asked me to be his Vice President, I said I only had two conditions:  One, I wouldn’t wear any funny hats, even on Class Day.  (Laughter.)  And two, I wouldn’t change my brand.  (Applause.)

Now, look, I realize no one ever doubts I mean what I say, the problem occasionally is I say all that I mean.  (Laughter.)  I have a bad reputation for being straight.  Sometimes an inappropriate times.  (Laughter.)  So here it goes.  Let’s get a couple things straight right off the bat:  Corvettes are better than Porsches; they’re quicker and they corner as well.  (Laughter and applause.)  And sorry, guys, a cappella is not better than rock and roll.  (Laughter and applause.)  And your pundits are better than Washington pundits, although I’ve noticed neither has any shame at all.  (Laughter and applause.)  And all roads lead to Toads?  Give me a break.  (Laughter and applause.)  You ever tried it on Monday night?  (Laughter.)  Look, it’s tough to end a great men’s basketball and football season.  One touchdown away from beating Harvard this year for the first time since 2006 -— so close to something you’ve wanted for eight years.  I can only imagine how you feel.  (Laughter.)  I can only imagine.  (Applause.)  So close.  So close.

But I got to be honest with you, when the invitation came, I was flattered, but it caused a little bit of a problem in my extended family.  It forced me to face some hard truths.  My son, Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, my daughter, Ashley Biden, runs a nonprofit for criminal justice in the state, they both went to Penn.  My two nieces graduated from Harvard, one an all-American.  All of them think my being here was a very bad idea.  (Laughter.)

On the other hand, my other son, Hunter, who heads the World Food Program USA, graduated from Yale Law School.  (Applause.)  Now, he thought it’s a great idea.  But then again, law graduates always think all of their ideas are great ideas.  (Laughter.)

By the way, I’ve had a lot of law graduates from Yale work for me.  That’s not too far from the truth.  But anyway, look, the truth of the matter is that I have a lot of staff that are Yale graduates, several are with me today.  They thought it was a great idea that I speak here.

As a matter of fact, my former national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, who is teaching here at Yale Law School, trained in international relations at Yale College, edited the Yale Daily News, and graduated from Harvard — excuse me, Freudian slip — Yale Law School.  (Laughter.)   You’re lucky to have him.  He’s a brilliant and decent and honorable man.  And I miss him.  And we miss him as my national security advisor.

But he’s not the only one.  My deputy national security advisor, Jeff Prescott, started and ran the China Law Center at Yale Law School.  My Middle East policy advisor and foreign policy speechwriter, Dan Benaim, who is with me, took Daily Themes -— got a B.  (Laughter.)  Now you know why I go off script so much.  (Laughter and applause.)

Look, at a Gridiron Dinner not long ago, the President said, I — the President — “I am learning to speak without a teleprompter, Joe is learning to speak with one.”  (Laughter.)  But if you looked at my speechwriters, you know why.

And the granddaughter of one of my dearest friends in life -— a former Holocaust survivor, a former foreign policy advisor, a former Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congressman Tom Lantos -— is graduating today.  Mercina, congratulations, kiddo.  (Applause.)  Where are you?  You are the sixth — she’s the sixth sibling in her immediate family to graduate from Yale.  Six out of 11, that’s not a bad batting average.  (Laughter.)  I believe it’s a modern day record for the number of kids who went to Yale from a single family.

And, Mercina, I know that your mom, Little Annette is here.  I don’t know where you are, Annette.  But Annette was part of the first class of freshman women admitted to Yale University.  (Applause.)

And her grandmother, Annette, is also a Holocaust survivor, an amazing woman; and both I’m sure wherever they are, beaming today.  And I know one more thing, Mercina, your father and grandfather are looking down, cheering you on.

I’m so happy to be here on your day and all of your day.  It’s good to know there’s one Yalie who is happy I’m being here — be here, at least one.  (Laughter.)  On “Overheard at Yale,” on the Facebook page, one student reported another student saying:  I had a dream that I was Vice President and was with the President, and we did the disco funk dance to convince the Congress to restart the government.  (Laughter.)

Another student commented, Y’all know Biden would be hilarious, get funky.  (Laughter.)

Well, my granddaughter, Finnegan Biden, whose dad went here, is with me today.  When she saw that on the speech, I was on the plane, Air Force Two coming up, she said, Pop, it would take a lot more than you and the President doing the disco funk dance. The Tea Party doesn’t even know what it is.  (Laughter.)

Look, I don’t know about that.  But I’m just glad there’s someone — just someone — who dreams of being Vice President.  (Laughter and applause.)  Just somebody.  I never had that dream.  (Laughter.)  For the press out there, that’s a joke.

Actually, being Vice President to Barack Obama has been truly a great honor.  We both enjoy getting out of the White House to talk to folks in the real America -— the kind who know what it means to struggle, to work hard, to shop at Kiko Milano.  (Laughter and applause.)  Great choice.  (Laughter.)

I just hope to hell the same people responsible for Kiko’s aren’t in charge of naming the two new residential colleges.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, look, folks, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should day to you today, but the more I thought about it, I thought that any Class Day speech is likely to be redundant.  You already heard from Jessie J at Spring Fling.  (Laughter.)  So what in the hell could I possibly say.  (Laughter.)

Look, I’m deeply honored that Jeremy and Kiki selected me.  I don’t know how the hell you trusted them to do that.  (Laughter.)  I hope you agree with their choice.  Actually I hope by the end of this speech, they agree with their choice.  (Laughter.)

In their flattering invitation letter, they asked me to bring along a sense of humor, speak about my commitment to public service and family, talk about resiliency, compassion, and leadership in a changing world.  Petty tall order.  (Laughter.)  I probably already flunked the first part of the test.

But with the rest let me say upfront, and I mean this sincerely, there’s nothing particularly unique about me.  With regard to resilience and compassion, there are countless thousands of people, maybe some in the audience, who’ve suffered through personal losses similar to mine or much worse with much less support to help them get through it and much less reason to want to get through it.

It’s not that all that difficult, folks, to be compassionate when you’ve been the beneficiary of compassion in your lowest moments not only from your family, but from your friends and total strangers.  Because when you know how much it meant to you, you know how much it mattered.  It’s not hard to be compassionate.

I was raised by a tough, compassionate Irish lady named Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden.  And she taught all of her children that, but for the grace of God, there go you — but for the grace of God, there go you.

And a father who lived his motto that, family was the beginning, the middle, and the end.  And like many of you and your parents, I was fortunate.  I learned early on what I wanted to do, what fulfilled me the most, what made me happy -— my family, my faith, and being engaged in the public affairs that gripped my generation and being inspired by a young President named Kennedy  — civil rights, the environment, trying to end an incredibly useless and divisive war, Vietnam.

The truth is, though, that neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what will make you happy, help you find success.

You each have different comfort levels.  Everyone has different goals and aspirations.  But one thing I’ve observed, one thing I know, an expression my dad would use often, is real.  He used to say, it’s a lucky man or woman gets up in the morning — and I mean this sincerely.  It was one of his expressions.  It’s a lucky man or woman gets up in the morning, puts both feet on the floor, knows what they’re about to do, and thinks it still matters.

I’ve been lucky.  And my wish for all of you is that not only tomorrow, but 20 and 40 and 50 years from now, you’ve found that sweet spot, that thing that allows you to get up in the morning, put both feet on the floor, go out and pursue what you love, and think it still matters.

Some of you will go to Silicon Valley and make great contributions to empower individuals and societies and maybe even design a life-changing app, like how to unsubscribe to Obama for America email list — (laughter) — the biggest “pan-list” of all times.

Some of you will go to Wall Street and big Wall Street law firms, government and activism, Peace Corps, Teach for America.  You’ll become doctors, researchers, journalists, artists, actors, musicians.  Two of you -— one of whom was one of my former interns in the White House, Sam Cohen, and Andrew Heymann —- will be commissioned in the United States Navy.  Congratulations, gentlemen.  We’re proud of you.  (Applause.)

But all of you have one thing in common you will all seek to find that sweet spot that satisfies your ambition and success and happiness.

I’ve met an awful lot of people in my career.  And I’ve noticed one thing, those who are the most successful and the happiest — whether they’re working on Wall Street or Main Street, as a doctor or nurse, or as a lawyer, or a social worker, I’ve made certain basic observation about the ones who from my observation wherever they were in the world were able to find that sweet spot between success and happiness.  Those who balance life and career, who find purpose and fulfillment, and where ambition leads them.

There’s no silver bullet, no single formula, no reductive list.  But they all seem to understand that happiness and success result from an accumulation of thousands of little things built on character, all of which have certain common features in my observation.

First, the most successful and happiest people I’ve known understand that a good life at its core is about being personal.  It’s about being engaged.  It’s about being there for a friend or a colleague when they’re injured or in an accident, remembering the birthdays, congratulating them on their marriage, celebrating the birth of their child.  It’s about being available to them when they’re going through personal loss.  It’s about loving someone more than yourself, as one of your speakers have already mentioned.  It all seems to get down to being personal.

That’s the stuff that fosters relationships.  It’s the only way to breed trust in everything you do in your life.

Let me give you an example.  After only four months in the United States Senate, as a 30-year-old kid, I was walking through the Senate floor to go to a meeting with Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.  And I witnessed another newly elected senator, the extremely conservative Jesse Helms, excoriating Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole for promoting the precursor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  But I had to see the Leader, so I kept walking.

When I walked into Mansfield’s office, I must have looked as angry as I was.  He was in his late ‘70s, lived to be 100.  And he looked at me, he said, what’s bothering you, Joe?

I said, that guy, Helms, he has no social redeeming value.  He doesn’t care — I really mean it — I was angry.  He doesn’t care about people in need.  He has a disregard for the disabled.

Majority Leader Mansfield then proceeded to tell me that three years earlier, Jesse and Dot Helms, sitting in their living room in early December before Christmas, reading an ad in the Raleigh Observer, the picture of a young man, 14-years-old with braces on his legs up to both hips, saying, all I want is someone to love me and adopt me.  He looked at me and he said, and they adopted him, Joe.

I felt like a fool.  He then went on to say, Joe, it’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives because you simply don’t know his motives.

It happened early in my career fortunately.  From that moment on, I tried to look past the caricatures of my colleagues and try to see the whole person.  Never once have I questioned another man’s or woman’s motive.  And something started to change.  If you notice, every time there’s a crisis in the Congress the last eight years, I get sent to the Hill to deal with it.  It’s because every one of those men and women up there — whether they like me or not — know that I don’t judge them for what I think they’re thinking.

Because when you question a man’s motive, when you say they’re acting out of greed, they’re in the pocket of an interest group, et cetera, it’s awful hard to reach consensus.  It’s awful hard having to reach across the table and shake hands.  No matter how bitterly you disagree, though, it is always possible if you question judgment and not motive.

Senator Helms and I continued to have profound political differences, but early on we both became the most powerful members of the Senate running the Foreign Relations Committee, as Chairmen and Ranking Members.  But something happened, the mutual defensiveness began to dissipate.  And as a result, we began to be able to work together in the interests of the country.  And as Chairman and Ranking Member, we passed some of the most significant legislation passed in the last 40 years.

All of which he opposed — from paying tens of millions of dollars in arrearages to an institution, he despised, the United Nations — he was part of the so-called “black helicopter” crowd; to passing the chemical weapons treaty, constantly referring to, “we’ve never lost a war, and we’ve never won a treaty,” which he vehemently opposed.  But we were able to do these things not because he changed his mind, but because in this new relationship to maintain it is required to play fair, to be straight.  The cheap shots ended.  And the chicanery to keep from having to being able to vote ended — even though he knew I had the votes.

After that, we went on as he began to look at the other side of things and do some great things together that he supported like PEPFAR -— which by the way, George W. Bush deserves an overwhelming amount of credit for, by the way, which provided treatment and prevention HIV/AIDS in Africa and around the world, literally saving millions of lives.

So one piece of advice is try to look beyond the caricature of the person with whom you have to work.  Resist the temptation to ascribe motive, because you really don’t know -— and it gets in the way of being able to reach a consensus on things that matter to you and to many other people.

Resist the temptation of your generation to let “network” become a verb that saps the personal away, that blinds you to the person right in front of you, blinds you to their hopes, their fears, and their burdens.

Build real relationships -— even with people with whom you vehemently disagree.  You’ll not only be happier.  You will be more successful.

The second thing I’ve noticed is that although you know no one is better than you, every other persons is equal to you and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

I’ve worked with eight Presidents, hundreds of Senators.  I’ve met every major world leader literally in the last 40 years.  And I’ve had scores of talented people work for me.  And here’s what I’ve observed:  Regardless of their academic or social backgrounds, those who had the most success and who were most respected and therefore able to get the most done were the ones who never confused academic credentials and societal sophistication with gravitas and judgment.

Don’t forget about what doesn’t come from this prestigious diploma — the heart to know what’s meaningful and what’s ephemeral; and   the head to know the difference between knowledge and judgment.

But even if you get these things right, I’ve observed that most people who are successful and happy remembered a third thing:  Reality has a way of intruding.

I got elected in a very improbable year.  Richard Nixon won my state overwhelmingly.  George McGovern was at the top of the ticket.  I got elected as the second-youngest man in the history of the United States to be elected, the stuff that provides and fuels raw ambition.  And if you’re not careful, it fuels a sense of inevitability that seeps in.  But be careful.  Things can change in a heartbeat.  I know.  And so do many of your parents.

Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever.  While I was in Washington hiring staff, I got a phone call.  My wife and three children were Christmas shopping, a tractor trailer broadsided them and killed my wife and killed my daughter.  And they weren’t sure that my sons would live.

Many people have gone through things like that.  But because I had the incredible good fortune of an extended family, grounded in love and loyalty, imbued with a sense of obligation imparted to each of us, I not only got help.  But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption.

I can remember my mother — a sweet lady — looking at me, after we left the hospital, and saying, Joey, out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it.  She was right.

The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I’m not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through.  Who knows whether I would have been able to appreciate at that moment in my life, the heady moment in my life, what my first obligation was.

So I began to commute — never intending to stay in Washington.  And that’s the God’s truth.  I was supposed to be sworn in with everyone else that year in ’73, but I wouldn’t go down.  So Mansfield thought I’d change my mind and not come, and he sent up the secretary of the Senate to swear me in, in the hospital room with my children.

And I began to commute thinking I was only going to stay a little while — four hours a day, every day — from Washington to Wilmington, which I’ve done for over 37 years.  I did it because I wanted to be able to kiss them goodnight and kiss them in the morning the next day.  No, “Ozzie and Harriet” breakfast or great familial thing, just climb in bed with them.  Because I came to realize that a child can hold an important thought, something they want to say to their mom and dad, maybe for 12 or 24 hours, and then it’s gone.  And when it’s gone, it’s gone.  And it all adds up.

But looking back on it, the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me.  Some at the time wrote and suggested that Biden can’t be a serious national figure.  If he was, he’d stay in Washington more, attend to more important events.  It’s obvious he’s not serious.  He goes home after the last vote.

But I realized I didn’t miss a thing.  Ambition is really important.  You need it.  And I certainly have never lacked in having ambition.  But ambition without perspective can be a killer.  I know a lot of you already understand this.  Some of you really had to struggle to get here.  And some of you have had to struggle to stay here.  And some of your families made enormous sacrifices for this great privilege.  And many of you faced your own crises, some unimaginable.

But the truth is all of you will go through something like this.  You’ll wrestle with these kinds of choices every day.  But I’m here to tell you, you can find the balance between ambition and happiness, what will make you really feel fulfilled.  And along the way, it helps a great deal if you can resist the temptation to rationalize.

My chief of staff for over 25 years, one of the finest men I’ve ever known, even though he graduated from Penn, and subsequently became a senator from the state of Delaware, Senator Ted Kaufman, every new hire, that we’d hire, the last thing he’d tell them was, and remember never underestimate the ability of the human mind to rationalize.  Never underestimate the ability of the human mind to rationalize — her birthday really doesn’t matter that much to her, and this business trip is just a great opportunity; this won’t be his last game, and besides, I’d have to take the redeye to get back.  We can always take this family vacation another time.  There’s plenty of time.

For your generation, there’s an incredible amount of pressure on all of you to succeed, particularly now that you have accomplished so much.  You’re whole generation faces this pressure.  I see it in my grandchildren who are honors students at other Ivy universities right now.  You race to do what others think is right in high school.  You raced through the bloodsport of college admissions.  You raced through Yale for the next big thing.  And all along, some of you compare yourself to the success of your peers on Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In, Twitter.

Today, some of you may have found that you slipped into the self-referential bubble that validates certain choices.  And the bubble expands once you leave this campus, the pressures and anxiousness, as well — take this job, make that much money, live in this place, hang out with people like you, take no real risks and have no real impact, while getting paid for the false sense of both.

But resist that temptation to rationalize what others view is the right choice for you -— instead of what you feel in your gut is the right choice —- that’s your North Star.  Trust it.  Follow it.  You’re an incredible group of young women and men.  And that’s not hyperbole.  You’re an incredible group.

Let me conclude with this.  I’m not going to moralize about to whom much is given, much is expected, because most of you have made of yourself much more than what you’ve been given.  But now you are in a privileged position.  You’re part of an exceptional generation and doors will open to you that will not open to others.  My Yale Law School grad son graduated very well from Yale Law School.  My other son out of loyalty to his deceased mother decided to go to Syracuse Law School from Penn.  They’re a year and a day apart in their age.  The one who graduated from Yale had doors open to him, the lowest salary offered back in the early ‘90s was $50,000 more than a federal judge made.  My other son, it was a struggle — equally as bright, went on to be elected one of the youngest attorney generals in the history of the state of Delaware, the most popular public official in my state.  Big headline after the 2012 election, “Biden Most Popular Man in Delaware — Beau.”  (Laughter.)

And as your parents will understand, my dad’s definition of success is when you look at your son and daughter and realize they turned out better than you, and they did.  But you’ll have opportunities.  Make the most of them and follow your heart.  You have the intellectual horsepower to make things better in the world around you.

You’re also part of the most tolerant generation in history.  I got roundly criticized because I could not remain quiet anymore about gay marriage.  The one thing I was certain of is all of your generation was way beyond that point.  (Applause.)

Here’s something else I observed — intellectual horsepower and tolerance alone does not make a generation great: unless you can break out of the bubble of your own making -— technologically, geographically, racially, and socioeconomically -— to truly connect with the world around you.  Because it matters.

No matter what your material success or personal circumstance, it matters.  You can’t breathe fresh air or protect your children from a changing climate no matter what you make.  If your sister is the victim of domestic violence, you are violated.  If your brother can’t marry the man he loves, you are lessened.  And if your best friend has to worry about being racially profiled, you live in a circumstance not worthy of us.  (Applause.)  It matters.

So be successful.  I sincerely hope some of you become millionaires and billionaires.  I mean that.  But engage the world around you because you will be more successful and happier.  And you can absolutely succeed in life without sacrificing your ideals or your commitments to others and family.  I’m confident that you can do that, and I’m confident that this generation will do it more than any other.

Look to your left, as they say, and look to your right.  And remember how foolish the people next to you look — (laughter) — in those ridiculous hats.  (Laughter.)  That’s what I want you to remember.  I mean this.  Because it means you’ve learned something from a great tradition.

It means you’re willing to look foolish, you’re willing to run the risk of looking foolish in the service of what matters to you.  And if you remember that, because some of the things your heart will tell you to do, will make you among your peers look foolish, or not smart, or not sophisticated.  But we’ll all be better for people of your consequence to do it.

That’s what I want you to most remember.  Not who spoke at the day you all assembled on this mall.  You’re a remarkable class.  I sure don’t remember who the hell was my commencement speaker.  (Laughter.)  I know this is not officially commencement.  But ask your parents when you leave here, who spoke at your commencement?  It’s a commencement speaker aversion of a commencement speaker’s fate to be forgotten.  The question is only how quickly.  But you’re the best in your generation.  And that is not hyperbole.  And you’re part of a remarkable generation.

And, you — you’re on the cusp of some of the most astonishing breakthroughs in the history of mankind -— scientific, technological, socially —- that’s going to change the way you live and the whole world works.  But it will be up to you in this changing world to translate those unprecedented capabilities into a greater measure of happiness and meaning -—  not just for yourself, but for the world around you.

And I feel more confident for my children and grandchildren knowing that the men and women who graduate here today, here and across the country, will be in their midst.  That’s the honest truth.  That’s the God’s truth.  That’s my word as a Biden.

Congratulations, Class of 2015.  And may God bless you and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.

END
3:37 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 16, 2015: President George W. Bush’s Remarks by at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President George W. Bush at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

Source: Bush Center,  Saturday, May 16, 2015

SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY, MOODY COLISEUM, DALLAS, TEXAS (May 16, 2015) —
Thank you. Thank you very much. President Turner, thanks. Members of the Board of Trustees, Provost Ludden, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, parents, and—most importantly—the Class of 2015. (Applause.) Thank you for your warm welcome, and I appreciate the invitation to be with you.

You know, when I mentioned this speech to some pals, they were surprised I was going to give it. (Laughter.) I haven’t given a commencement address since leaving office. You know, my decision is quite practical. So I got a call from my landlord – (laughter) – Gerald Turner. (Laughter.) Rather than raising the rent or threatening to withhold our security deposit – (laughter) – I was relieved to hear President Turner ask if I believed in free speech. (Applause.) I said yeah. He said, “Perfect. Here’s your chance to give one.” (Laughter and applause.)

As a proud member of the SMU community, I am honored to be here – truly honored – to deliver the 100th Spring Commencement address. I admire President Turner’s persuasiveness – (laughter) – and leadership. He runs a fantastic university. (Applause.) It is dynamic, diverse, and destined for continued excellence. He has assembled a strong administrative team. He is supported by engaged alumni, and he has an outstanding Board of Trustees.

I’m fortunate to know many of the trustees. (Laughter.) Well, for example I’m good friends with the Chairman, Mike Boone. And there’s one trustee I know really well – (laughter) -a proud graduate of the SMU Class of 1968 who went on to become our nation’s greatest First Lady. (Applause.) Do me a favor and don’t tell Mother. (Laughter.) I know how much the trustees love and care for this great university. I see it firsthand when I attend the Bring-Your-Spouse-Night Dinners. (Laughter.)

I also get to drop by classes on occasion. I am really impressed by the intelligence and energy of the SMU faculty. I want to thank you for your dedication and thank you for sharing your knowledge with your students.

To reach this day, the graduates have had the support of loving families. Some of them love you so much they are watching from overflow sites across campus. (Laughter.) I congratulate the parents who have sacrificed to make this moment possible. It is a glorious day when your child graduates from college — and a really great day for your bank account. (Laughter and applause.) I know the members of the Class of 2015 will join me in thanking you for your love and your support. (Applause.)

Most of all, I congratulate the members of the Class of 2015. You worked hard to reach this milestone. You leave with lifelong friends and fond memories. You will always remember how much you enjoyed the right to buy a required campus meal plan. (Laughter.) You’ll remember your frequent battles with the Park ‘N’ Pony Office. (Laughter.) And you may or may not remember those productive nights at the Barley House. (Laughter and applause.)

You were founding members of the mighty SMU Mob, bouncing like mad and watching in wonder as your then-Student Body President, Señor Lobster – (laughter) – danced with joy after all those Pony victories right here in Moody. (Applause.) And you’ll think back to those carefree fall game days on the Boulevard – though I don’t recall seeing too many of you in the football stadium. (Laughter.)

To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, “well done.” And as I like to tell the “C” students: You, too, can be President. (Laughter and applause.)

After four years of sitting through lectures, I have a feeling you’re not in the mood for another one. (Laughter.) What I have learned about graduation speeches is that they’re too long and rarely remembered. So I’ll keep this short. I just can’t attest to how memorable it will be.

I’ve also learned that it’s important to refer to someone associated with the University. So I picked one, an SMU trustee (who by the way is not here), Reverend Mark Craig. Now, I asked Mark to deliver the sermon at the First United Methodist Church in Austin before my second inauguration as Governor of Texas. I still remember his Fort Worth twang as he talked about Moses. God called Moses to action, and Moses repeatedly found excuses not to act. “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? Oh, my Lord, I pray, send some other person. I have sheep to tend. And the people won’t believe me — I’m not a very good speaker.”

Moses wasn’t the only one who could mangle his language. (Laughter.) [Inaudible.]

Fortunately, Moses recognized the call to serve something greater than himself. He answered the call, led his people, and history was made.

You, too, will be called at some point. The question, as Mark aptly and artfully laid out, is: Will you be optimistic and hopeful, or pessimistic and cynical? Here are three reasons why you should be optimistic and hopeful.

One, you are graduating from a great university. Your SMU degree will open the door to a wide variety of career options. Millions will never have had this opportunity. SMU has laid a foundation so you can reason, and continue to learn throughout your life. It has given you the tools to be productive citizens.

One of the great strengths of America is our active public square. Issues are influenced by the will of the people. That is why an educated citizenry is so important to the success of our country. As SMU graduates, you are well-equipped to participate in these vital debates. My hope is that you speak out on the issues that matter to you. Participate in your Nation’s civic life as citizens, not spectators. You’ll come to learn that who you are is more important than what you have—and that you have responsibilities to your fellow citizens, your country, and your family. By taking part in American democracy, you will make our country stronger.

Secondly, you are blessed to live in the greatest Nation – ever. (Applause.) Here you can strive and succeed as far as you dare to dream. It says something about our country that millions around the world are willing to leave their homes and families and risk everything to come here and realize the American dream. Their pursuit of that dream invigorates our national soul. It renews our country’s character. And it adds vitality to our culture.

You live in a land that is compassionate and decent. Because we believe in the rights and dignity of our own citizenry, we are committed to defending the rights and dignity of people everywhere. America has liberated millions around the world from tyranny and terror. We’ve helped turn the tide against deadly disease in places like Africa. In our hearts we believe all are created equal under God. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is Almighty God’s gift to humanity.

At home, there are thousands of platoons in the Army of compassion working to honor those beliefs. No matter what your career path, enlist. When you help another, you enrich your heart, and you strengthen the fabric of our collective goodness.

Many of you have already made service a priority in your lives by volunteering during winter, spring, and summer breaks; and completing more than one-hundred community projects through Engaged Learning. I thank you for recognizing the timeless truth: of those to whom much is given, much is required.

As you serve others, you can inspire others. I’ve been inspired by the examples of many selfless servants. Winston Churchill, a leader of courage and resolve, inspired me during my Presidency—and, for that matter, in the post-presidency. Like Churchill, I now paint. (Laughter.) Unlike Churchill, the painting isn’t worth much without the signature. (Laughter.)

In 1941, he gave a speech to the students of his old school during Britain’s most trying times in World War II. It wasn’t too long, and it is well-remembered. Prime Minister Churchill urged, “Never give in … in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

I hope you’ll remember this advice. But there’s a lesser-known passage from that speech that I also want to share with you:

“These are not dark days. These are great days. The greatest our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

When Churchill uttered these words, many had lost hope in Great Britain’s chance for survival against the Nazis. Many doubted the future of freedom. Today, some doubt America’s future, and they say our best days are behind us. I say, given our strengths—one of which is a bright new generation like you—these are not dark days. These are great days.

And finally, you can be hopeful because there is a loving God. Whether you agree with that statement or not is your choice. It is not your government’s choice. It is essential – (applause). It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want, and how we want—or not worship at all—is a core belief of our founding.

I have made my choice. I believe that the Almighty’s grace and unconditional love will sustain you. I believe it will bring you joy amidst the trials of life. It will enable you to better see the beauty around you. It will provide a solid foundation amidst a rapidly changing, somewhat impersonal, technologically-driven world. It will show you how to love your neighbor, forgive more easily, and approach success with humility—and failure without fear.

It will inspire you to honor your parents and eventually be a better spouse and parent yourself. It will help you fully grasp the value of life—all life. It will remind you that money, power, and fame are false idols. And I hope and believe that God’s love will inspire you to serve others.

I want to thank you for letting me share this special day with you. I wish you all the very best. Stay in touch with your friends. Love your family. Treat this day as a step toward a lifetime of learning. And go forth with confidence. May God bless you. (Applause.)

Full Text Obama Presidency May 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at West Point Military Academy Commencement Ceremony Outlining Foreign Policy Plan

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 5-28-14

 

U.S. Military Academy-West Point
West Point, New York

10:22 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  And thank you, General Caslen, for that introduction.  To General Trainor, General Clarke, the faculty and staff at West Point — you have been outstanding stewards of this proud institution and outstanding mentors for the newest officers in the United States Army.  I’d like to acknowledge the Army’s leadership — General McHugh — Secretary McHugh, General Odierno, as well as Senator Jack Reed, who is here, and a proud graduate of West Point himself.

To the class of 2014, I congratulate you on taking your place on the Long Gray Line.  Among you is the first all-female command team — Erin Mauldin and Austen Boroff.  In Calla Glavin, you have a Rhodes Scholar.  And Josh Herbeck proves that West Point accuracy extends beyond the three-point line.  To the entire class, let me reassure you in these final hours at West Point:  As Commander-in-Chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let me just say that nobody ever did that for me when I was in school.  (Laughter.)

I know you join me in extending a word of thanks to your families.  Joe DeMoss, whose son James is graduating, spoke for a whole lot of parents when he wrote me a letter about the sacrifices you’ve made.  “Deep inside,” he wrote, “we want to explode with pride at what they are committing to do in the service of our country.”  Like several graduates, James is a combat veteran.  And I would ask all of us here today to stand and pay tribute — not only to the veterans among us, but to the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families.  (Applause.)

This is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, a few days after Memorial Day.  You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  When I first spoke at West Point in 2009, we still had more than 100,000 troops in Iraq.  We were preparing to surge in Afghanistan.  Our counterterrorism efforts were focused on al Qaeda’s core leadership — those who had carried out the 9/11 attacks.  And our nation was just beginning a long climb out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed.  We have removed our troops from Iraq.  We are winding down our war in Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more.  (Applause.)  And through it all, we’ve refocused our investments in what has always been a key source of American strength:  a growing economy that can provide opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility here at home.

In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world.  Those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away — are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.  Think about it.  Our military has no peer.  The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.
Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative.  Each year, we grow more energy independent.  From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations.  America continues to attract striving immigrants.  The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe.  And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help.  (Applause.)  So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.  That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.

But the world is changing with accelerating speed.  This presents opportunity, but also new dangers.  We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm.  Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors.  From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.  And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24-hour news and social media makes it impossible to ignore the continuation of sectarian conflicts and failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.

It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world.  The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead — not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.

Now, this question isn’t new.  At least since George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief, there have been those who warned against foreign entanglements that do not touch directly on our security or economic wellbeing.  Today, according to self-described realists, conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve.  And not surprisingly, after costly wars and continuing challenges here at home, that view is shared by many Americans.

A different view from interventionists from the left and right says that we ignore these conflicts at our own peril; that America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos, and America’s failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocations not only violates our conscience, but invites escalating aggression in the future.

And each side can point to history to support its claims. But I believe neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment.  It is absolutely true that in the 21st century American isolationism is not an option.  We don’t have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders.  If nuclear materials are not secure, that poses a danger to American cities.  As the Syrian civil war spills across borders, the capacity of battle-hardened extremist groups to come after us only increases.  Regional aggression that goes unchecked — whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world — will ultimately impact our allies and could draw in our military.  We can’t ignore what happens beyond our boundaries.

And beyond these narrow rationales, I believe we have a real stake, an abiding self-interest, in making sure our children and our grandchildren grow up in a world where schoolgirls are not kidnapped and where individuals are not slaughtered because of tribe or faith or political belief.  I believe that a world of greater freedom and tolerance is not only a moral imperative, it also helps to keep us safe.

But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.  Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences — without building international support and legitimacy for our action; without leveling with the American people about the sacrifices required.  Tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans.  As General Eisenhower, someone with hard-earned knowledge on this subject, said at this ceremony in 1947:  “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”

Like Eisenhower, this generation of men and women in uniform know all too well the wages of war, and that includes those of you here at West Point.  Four of the servicemembers who stood in the audience when I announced the surge of our forces in Afghanistan gave their lives in that effort.  A lot more were wounded.  I believe America’s security demanded those deployments.  But I am haunted by those deaths.  I am haunted by those wounds.  And I would betray my duty to you and to the country we love if I ever sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed to be fixed, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.

Here’s my bottom line:  America must always lead on the world stage.  If we don’t, no one else will.  The military that you have joined is and always will be the backbone of that leadership.  But U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.  And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader — and especially your Commander-in-Chief — to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.

So let me spend the rest of my time describing my vision for how the United States of America and our military should lead in the years to come, for you will be part of that leadership.

First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency:  The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened, when our livelihoods are at stake, when the security of our allies is in danger.  In these circumstances, we still need to ask tough questions about whether our actions are proportional and effective and just.  International opinion matters, but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, or our way of life.  (Applause.)

On the other hand, when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States, when such issues are at stake — when crises arise that stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction but do not directly threaten us — then the threshold for military action must be higher.  In such circumstances, we should not go it alone.  Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action.  We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions and isolation; appeals to international law; and, if just, necessary and effective, multilateral military action.  In such circumstances, we have to work with others because collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, less likely to lead to costly mistakes.

This leads to my second point:  For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.  But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.  I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy — drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan — to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

And the need for a new strategy reflects the fact that today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized al Qaeda leadership.  Instead, it comes from decentralized al Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in countries where they operate.  And this lessens the possibility of large-scale 9/11-style attacks against the homeland, but it heightens the danger of U.S. personnel overseas being attacked, as we saw in Benghazi.  It heightens the danger to less defensible targets, as we saw in a shopping mall in Nairobi.

So we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat — one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments.  We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.  And empowering partners is a large part of what we have done and what we are currently doing in Afghanistan.

Together with our allies, America struck huge blows against al Qaeda core and pushed back against an insurgency that threatened to overrun the country.  But sustaining this progress depends on the ability of Afghans to do the job.  And that’s why we trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police.  Earlier this spring, those forces, those Afghan forces, secured an election in which Afghans voted for the first democratic transfer of power in their history.  And at the end of this year, a new Afghan President will be in office and America’s combat mission will be over.  (Applause.)

Now, that was an enormous achievement made because of America’s armed forces.  But as we move to a train-and-advise mission in Afghanistan, our reduced presence allows us to more effectively address emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa.  So, earlier this year, I asked my national security team to develop a plan for a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel.  Today, as part of this effort, I am calling on Congress to support a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines.  And these resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.

A critical focus of this effort will be the ongoing crisis in Syria.  As frustrating as it is, there are no easy answers, no military solution that can eliminate the terrible suffering anytime soon.  As President, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian war, and I believe that is the right decision.  But that does not mean we shouldn’t help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his own people.  And in helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we are also pushing back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos.

So with the additional resources I’m announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria’s neighbors — Jordan and Lebanon; Turkey and Iraq — as they contend with refugees and confront terrorists working across Syria’s borders.  I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.  And we will continue to coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab World to push for a political resolution of this crisis, and to make sure that those countries and not just the United States are contributing their fair share to support the Syrian people.

Let me make one final point about our efforts against terrorism.  The partnerships I’ve described do not eliminate the need to take direct action when necessary to protect ourselves. When we have actionable intelligence, that’s what we do — through capture operations like the one that brought a terrorist involved in the plot to bomb our embassies in 1998 to face justice; or drone strikes like those we’ve carried out in Yemen and Somalia.  There are times when those actions are necessary, and we cannot hesitate to protect our people.

But as I said last year, in taking direct action we must uphold standards that reflect our values.  That means taking strikes only when we face a continuing, imminent threat, and only where there is no certainty — there is near certainty of no civilian casualties.  For our actions should meet a simple test:  We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.

I also believe we must be more transparent about both the basis of our counterterrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.  We have to be able to explain them publicly, whether it is drone strikes or training partners.  I will increasingly turn to our military to take the lead and provide information to the public about our efforts.  Our intelligence community has done outstanding work, and we have to continue to protect sources and methods.  But when we cannot explain our efforts clearly and publicly, we face terrorist propaganda and international suspicion, we erode legitimacy with our partners and our people, and we reduce accountability in our own government.

And this issue of transparency is directly relevant to a third aspect of American leadership, and that is our effort to strengthen and enforce international order.

After World War II, America had the wisdom to shape institutions to keep the peace and support human progress — from NATO and the United Nations, to the World Bank and IMF.  These institutions are not perfect, but they have been a force multiplier.  They reduce the need for unilateral American action and increase restraint among other nations.

Now, just as the world has changed, this architecture must change as well.  At the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy spoke about the need for a peace based upon, “a gradual evolution in human institutions.”  And evolving these international institutions to meet the demands of today must be a critical part of American leadership.

Now, there are a lot of folks, a lot of skeptics, who often downplay the effectiveness of multilateral action.  For them, working through international institutions like the U.N. or respecting international law is a sign of weakness.  I think they’re wrong.  Let me offer just two examples why.

In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe.   But this isn’t the Cold War.  Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away.  Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions; Europe and the G7 joined us to impose sanctions; NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies; the IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy; OSCE monitors brought the eyes of the world to unstable parts of Ukraine.  And this mobilization of world opinion and international institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda and Russian troops on the border and armed militias in ski masks.

This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions.  Yesterday, I spoke to their next President.  We don’t know how the situation will play out and there will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future without us firing a shot.

Similarly, despite frequent warnings from the United States and Israel and others, the Iranian nuclear program steadily advanced for years.  But at the beginning of my presidency, we built a coalition that imposed sanctions on the Iranian economy, while extending the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian government.  And now we have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully.

The odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement — one that is more effective and durable than what we could have achieved through the use of force.  And throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side.

The point is this is American leadership.  This is American strength.  In each case, we built coalitions to respond to a specific challenge.  Now we need to do more to strengthen the institutions that can anticipate and prevent problems from spreading.  For example, NATO is the strongest alliance the world has ever known.  But we’re now working with NATO allies to meet new missions, both within Europe where our Eastern allies must be reassured, but also beyond Europe’s borders where our NATO allies must pull their weight to counterterrorism and respond to failed states and train a network of partners.

Likewise, the U.N. provides a platform to keep the peace in states torn apart by conflict.  Now we need to make sure that those nations who provide peacekeepers have the training and equipment to actually keep the peace, so that we can prevent the type of killing we’ve seen in Congo and Sudan.  We are going to deepen our investment in countries that support these peacekeeping missions, because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way.  It’s a smart investment.  It’s the right way to lead.  (Applause.)

Keep in mind, not all international norms relate directly to armed conflict.  We have a serious problem with cyber-attacks, which is why we’re working to shape and enforce rules of the road to secure our networks and our citizens.  In the Asia Pacific, we’re supporting Southeast Asian nations as they negotiate a code of conduct with China on maritime disputes in the South China Sea.  And we’re working to resolve these disputes through international law.  That spirit of cooperation needs to energize the global effort to combat climate change — a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we are called on to respond to refugee flows and natural disasters and conflicts over water and food, which is why next year I intend to make sure America is out front in putting together a global framework to preserve our planet.

You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.  We can’t exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everybody else.  We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it’s taking place.  We can’t try to resolve problems in the South China Sea when we have refused to make sure that the Law of the Sea Convention is ratified by our United States Senate, despite the fact that our top military leaders say the treaty advances our national security.  That’s not leadership; that’s retreat.  That’s not strength; that’s weakness.  It would be utterly foreign to leaders like Roosevelt and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.  But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.  (Applause.)  And that’s why I will continue to push to close Gitmo — because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’re putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence — because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we’re conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens.  (Applause.)  America does not simply stand for stability or the absence of conflict, no matter what the cost.  We stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere.

Which brings me to the fourth and final element of American leadership:  Our willingness to act on behalf of human dignity.  America’s support for democracy and human rights goes beyond idealism — it is a matter of national security.  Democracies are our closest friends and are far less likely to go to war.  Economies based on free and open markets perform better and become markets for our goods.  Respect for human rights is an antidote to instability and the grievances that fuel violence and terror.

A new century has brought no end to tyranny.  In capitals around the globe — including, unfortunately, some of America’s partners — there has been a crackdown on civil society.  The cancer of corruption has enriched too many governments and their cronies, and enraged citizens from remote villages to iconic squares.  And watching these trends, or the violent upheavals in parts of the Arab World, it’s easy to be cynical.

But remember that because of America’s efforts, because of American diplomacy and foreign assistance as well as the sacrifices of our military, more people live under elected governments today than at any time in human history.  Technology is empowering civil society in ways that no iron fist can control.  New breakthroughs are lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  And even the upheaval of the Arab World reflects the rejection of an authoritarian order that was anything but stable, and now offers the long-term prospect of more responsive and effective governance.

In countries like Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests — from peace treaties with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism.  So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government, but we can and will persistently press for reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded.

And meanwhile, look at a country like Burma, which only a few years ago was an intractable dictatorship and hostile to the United States — 40 million people.  Thanks to the enormous courage of the people in that country, and because we took the diplomatic initiative, American leadership, we have seen political reforms opening a once closed society; a movement by Burmese leadership away from partnership with North Korea in favor of engagement with America and our allies.  We’re now supporting reform and badly needed national reconciliation through assistance and investment, through coaxing and, at times, public criticism.  And progress there could be reversed, but if Burma succeeds we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot.  American leadership.

In each of these cases, we should not expect change to happen overnight.  That’s why we form alliances not just with governments, but also with ordinary people.  For unlike other nations, America is not afraid of individual empowerment, we are strengthened by it.  We’re strengthened by civil society.  We’re strengthened by a free press.  We’re strengthened by striving entrepreneurs and small businesses.  We’re strengthened by educational exchange and opportunity for all people, and women and girls.  That’s who we are.  That’s what we represent.  (Applause.)

I saw that through a trip to Africa last year, where American assistance has made possible the prospect of an AIDS-free generation, while helping Africans care themselves for their sick.  We’re helping farmers get their products to market, to feed populations once endangered by famine.  We aim to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa so people are connected to the promise of the global economy.  And all this creates new partners and shrinks the space for terrorism and conflict.

Now, tragically, no American security operation can eradicate the threat posed by an extremist group like Boko Haram, the group that kidnapped those girls.  And that’s why we have to focus not just on rescuing those girls right away, but also on supporting Nigerian efforts to educate its youth.  This should be one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development.  They understood that foreign assistance is not an afterthought, something nice to do apart from our national defense, apart from our national security.  It is part of what makes us strong.

Ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty.  We have to be prepared for the worst, prepared for every contingency.  But American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be — a place where the aspirations of individual human beings really matters; where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in a direction of justice.  And we cannot do that without you.

Class of 2014, you have taken this time to prepare on the quiet banks of the Hudson.  You leave this place to carry forward a legacy that no other military in human history can claim.  You do so as part of a team that extends beyond your units or even our Armed Forces, for in the course of your service you will work as a team with diplomats and development experts.  You’ll get to know allies and train partners.  And you will embody what it means for America to lead the world.

Next week, I will go to Normandy to honor the men who stormed the beaches there.  And while it’s hard for many Americans to comprehend the courage and sense of duty that guided those who boarded small ships, it’s familiar to you.  At West Point, you define what it means to be a patriot.

Three years ago, Gavin White graduated from this academy. He then served in Afghanistan.  Like the soldiers who came before him, Gavin was in a foreign land, helping people he’d never met, putting himself in harm’s way for the sake of his community and his family, of the folks back home.  Gavin lost one of his legs in an attack.  I met him last year at Walter Reed.  He was wounded, but just as determined as the day that he arrived here at West Point — and he developed a simple goal.  Today, his sister Morgan will graduate.  And true to his promise, Gavin will be there to stand and exchange salutes with her.  (Applause.)

We have been through a long season of war.  We have faced trials that were not foreseen, and we’ve seen divisions about how to move forward.  But there is something in Gavin’s character, there is something in the American character that will always triumph.  Leaving here, you carry with you the respect of your fellow citizens.  You will represent a nation with history and hope on our side.  Your charge, now, is not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just.   As your Commander-in-Chief, I know you will.

May God bless you.  May God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:08 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Headlines May 25, 2013: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s US Military Academy Commencement Address — Tells West Point Cadets Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Chuck Hagel to West Point Cadets: Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-25-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told cadets that sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a “profound betrayal” and charged them with the responsibility to stamp out the sexual assault problem plaguing the military….READ MORE

United States Military Academy Commencement

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, West Point, N.Y., Saturday, May 25, 2013

Source: DOD, 5-25-13

General Huntoon, thank you.

I am not unaware, especially on a rainy day, that graduates, their guests, and their families, prize brevity.

No, I’m not finished.

I told my wife last night that the last thing I want you graduates to remember is your Secretary of Defense droning on and on and that it’s raining.  I want you to remember me and your experience here with far more positive memories.

First, let me thank you very much for this privilege to participate in such an important and historic occasion for all of you and for this institution.

Secretary McHugh, General Odierno – distinguished West Point Class of 1976 – we’re still figuring out of he has problems that he left behind here that we haven’t uncovered yet.  If he’s walked everything off, then we can be sure he’s clean.

Members of Congress, West Point alumni and distinguished guests: I really am honored to be here with you to help celebrate this Class of 2013 and their families.

I’ve been looking forward to my visit to West Point since I was informed that I was asked to be your speaker.  I’ve traveled to West Point over the years as a United States Senator many times and was always inspired by my visits and but I was mostly inspired by the conversations with the cadets.  A long-time friend, who is no stranger to this institution, who has given me years of sage advice, came with me today – Harry Walters.  Harry’s a member of the Class of ‘59.  As you all know, Harry was the starting fullback on that great undefeated Black Knights team when Pete Dawkins won the Heisman Trophy.  You also know that Harry was an Assistant Secretary of the Army and Administrator of the Veterans Administration under President Ronald Reagan.  I always feel better when Harry’s around.  Harry, thank you for what you have meant to this institution and our country.

I also want to acknowledge another good friend and distinguished West Point graduate, who you all know, my friend and former Senate colleague, Senator Jack Reed, Class of ‘71.  Jack and I got to the Senate the same year, 1996.  He’s been not only a friend and colleague but a confidant who has given me wise counsel over the years and continues to do that.  As you may know, Senator Reed is the only West Pointer in the Senate.

Congratulations to the parents of the West Point Class of 2013.  This is your day too.  I know how very proud you are of these young American leaders.  Four years have passed since you performed the “90 second goodbye” at Eisenhower Hall, and first saw your sons and daughters march in formation on the way to Trophy Point.  At every step these cadets have benefited from your love, your support, and your reassurance.  So thank you, thank you all.

To the faculty and the staff: thank you.  We are grateful for your hard work in molding these young Army leaders.  Many of you are combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing your experience, and for helping prepare these future officers for the challenges that lie ahead.

I also want to recognize and welcome the members of the Class of 1963, celebrating their 50th anniversary.  ‘63 is my vintage.  You have built an enduring bond with these graduates.  You welcomed the Class of 2013 as they reported to these grounds on R-Day, took part in their oath ceremony and spent time with them over the last four years.

To the class of 2013: congratulations!  We’re all very proud of you.

Like every man and woman who has stepped forward to serve in uniform, you made a courageous decision to offer yourself for a very purposeful life.  This institution has educated, trained, and inspired you to help shoulder the wheel in defense of our nation.  You’ve learned the meaning of duty, honor, and country.  And you will now be asked to lead our nation’s soldiers, an awesome responsibility.

My time in the Army shaped me forever, as it did for so many in this stadium today.  And while tactics, techniques and training have all surely changed in the decades since I was in the Army and since many of you who have served, the basic principles of soldiering and leadership remain the same.  Character and courage are still the indispensable requisites of both life and leadership.

In Vietnam, I learned that combat is a furnace that can consume you, or it can forge you into something better and stronger than you were before.  But it requires leaders to help bring the best out in all of us.

Many of you in the Corps of Cadets with prior service have already learned these hard truths of war.  You have also seen what is expected of young officers in today’s military – new demands of a shifting and complicated world.

Great leaders are men and women who know who they are, what they believe, and where they want to go.  Great leaders listen.  And they listen carefully.

Behind my desk in the Pentagon hang the portraits of two of the Army’s greatest leaders – men who played defining roles in shaping America and the world: Dwight David Eisenhower, West Point Class of 1915, and George Catlett Marshall.  They each embodied every dimension of leadership – in particular, they were intense listeners and deep thinkers.  And they knew when to act and when not to.  There are differences and there consequences for both.  They were never intimidated by failures or mistakes.  We all have them, we all make them.  But they learned and made adjustments and made wiser decisions as a result of those experiences.

The most important part of leadership is taking responsibility for your actions and decisions, and holding all around you accountable.

The military career of General Eisenhower provides one of the greatest examples of this kind of accountability.  You all, I’m sure, know the story.

On the eve of the Normandy invasion which he would command, Eisenhower scribbled a message on a piece of paper in the event that D-Day was a failure.  Eisenhower’s framed words hung in my Senate Office for twelve years.  They read: “Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops.  My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available.  The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do.  If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”

That is accountability, and I often think of that story when I look at Eisenhower’s portrait in my Pentagon office.  Eisenhower’s simple and honest statement should be a guiding point for all of us in positions of authority and responsibility, and for all of you as you embark upon your military careers.

Remember always that the coin of the realm of leadership is trust.   In preparation for your career, you have been taught how to shoot an azimuth – how to use a compass to set your course toward an objective.  You’ve scrambled through these granite hills as new cadets and yearlings, learning how to guide yourselves.  Then you roamed them again as rising firsties, learning how to guide others.  You know by now that the greatness of leaders lies in their ability to shoot an azimuth that is straight and true, even under hostile fire or trying circumstances.  Adjust, adapt, be agile and be flexible, but don’t get thrown off course by the always-present distractions and uncontrollables of life.  For they will always be present.

Leaders don’t cut corners.  When you are faced with difficult decisions, you will always know that the right thing to do…is the right thing to do.  Do it.  Listen to yourself and be guided by what you believe is right.

Standing against the crowd and choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong, as the Cadet Prayer prescribes, can be very lonely and frightening at times.  And it requires immense moral courage.  But it will serve you well over the long haul and throughout your life.

As you embark on your new profession, you are charged with the clear responsibility of helping ensure that the Army is prepared for the future, just as you have been prepared here on the Hudson.  Pay attention to your environment and all around you, and listen carefully to your NCOs.  For your NCOs will help you engage and navigate, and they’ll keep you out of the deep ditches of command.

The Army you enter today is emerging – and in many ways recovering – from more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  During what has been the longest period of sustained combat in American history, the ground forces have shouldered a very heavy burden – doing the fighting and dying, and adapting under fire to a kind of conflict far different than what the Army’s leadership trained and prepared for after the Cold War.

A new Army is being shaped and you will not only be present in that new Army that’s being shaped.  You will have the responsibility of helping shape it and you will have the responsibility of helping lead it, and this all during a very complicated and uncertain time in the world.  The past decade reinforced a consistent theme in the history of America’s armed forces:  we can never predict when, where and how we will be called upon to fight.

The only thing we can predict is that wars are unpredictable, and they remain a fundamentally human endeavor.  Those who believe that war can be waged with precision from a distance, with minimal personal risk, would do well to remember this lesson.

These great uncertainties have implications for the kinds of thinkers and leaders the Army and America will need you to be.  The challenge you will face is how to build on the skills honed during the past decade of war while preparing for conflicts that are likely to take on a new and unfamiliar form – and to do this in an Army that will have fewer people and less money than it’s had in recent years.

You are entering the military at a time when the world is undergoing historic transformation.  A new world order is being constructed.  This moment, like others before it, calls for American leadership and engagement.  That leadership will include continuing to build coalitions of common interests and strengthening alliances and forging new ones.

The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his Fourth Inaugural on January 20, 1945 echo even more loudly today, when he said: “We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away…We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.”

Understand that there are rarely quick and easy solutions to every problem, there are evolving solutions, that require managing problems to the higher ground of resolution…and ultimately to a solution.  Too many costly strategic and tactical mistakes have been made by not appreciating this complicated reality in world affairs.

All this will matter little if the Army you lead is not maintained as a ready, disciplined, and cohesive force.  As the Army returns to garrison after more than a decade of constant deployments, some of the strains and stresses placed on soldiers and their families are easing.  At the same time, budget constraints are forcing the Army – along with all our services – to curtail training and cancel exercises, impacting readiness and morale.  Meanwhile, other threats to the health and quality of the all-volunteer force are increasing – alcohol and drug abuse, suicide and mental illness, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

You will need to not just deal with these debilitating, insidious and destructive forces but rather you must be the generation of leaders that stop it.  This will require your complete commitment to building a culture of respect for every member of the military and society.  Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts.  This scourge must be stamped out.  We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens.  We cannot fail the Army or America.  We cannot fail each other, and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead.  As President Obama said yesterday at the Naval Academy: “These crimes have no place in the greatest military on earth.”

While the Army today continues to be under stress, it is also far more professional, adaptable, lethal, and capable than it has ever been.  It is likewise growing more diverse.  We are all benefiting from the continued expansion of opportunities for women to serve in our military.  The United States military has long benefited from the service of gay men and lesbians.  Now they serve openly with full honor, integrity, and respect.  That makes this Army stronger.

You know from your time here at West Point you will continue to learn from the work of generations of leaders – all generations of Army leadership – as you confront the new challenges of today and tomorrow.

This morning I have focused on your responsibilities – to the soldiers you will command, and to the institution that you will lead.  But the Army also has obligations to you.  In particular, it has a responsibility to put in place a culture and an organization that enables you to grow and succeed.  I know our leaders sitting here today and all of Army’s leadership across the globe work every day to achieve that accomplishment, an important objective that never, ever ends.  America will always need an Army that cultivates its best and brightest leaders, provides them and their families with incentives to remain in service, we always take care of our people.  You must always take care of your people.

In preparing for today, I reflected on many of my own experiences.  I reflected on my own experiences in particular during my days in the Army and all the great opportunities I’ve had in my life to serve this country.  And I thought about what insights I might be able to leave you with and not minimize the opportunity you’ve given me to be with you today.

That reflection brought me to a concluding observation.  It’s a reflection not about my own experience, not about me, but rather, it’s about someone else.  A professional soldier who walked these grounds as a young cadet fifty years ago.

Robert George Keats was a member of West Point’s Class of 1965.  He was an outstanding writer who helped put together General Douglas MacArthur’s memorial articles.  He established West Point’s history club and became its first President.  After graduation, he completed Airborne and Ranger schools, married his high school sweetheart, and volunteered for duty in Vietnam.

A few months after arriving in Vietnam, Captain Keats took command of my company – B Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division.  Within ten days of taking command, on February 2, 1968 – shortly before his 24th birthday – he was killed.  I was there.

Captain Keats is buried at West Point Cemetery, alongside other heroes of the Long Gray Line – including 33 of the more than 90 West Point graduates who have died in uniform since September 11, 2001.

One of Captain Keats’ brothers, Walter Keats, and his West Point roommate, Robert Scully, are here with us today.

At Captain Keats’ funeral service a letter he had sent as a cadet was read aloud.  He wrote of being an idealist, committed to upholding and defending American values and virtues.  His letter included the following words: “I am in a fight to save the ideal now.  I shall be until the day I die.  The world can only be saved by people who are striving for the ideal.  I know we shall win, it can be no other way.”

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember, that like Robert George Keats, you chose to be a soldier at a defining time in our nation’s history.  You too are fighting for an ideal – as the Class of 2013 motto says, you are “defending the dream.”

America needs you, and it will count on you to uphold this ideal.  In Captain Keats’ words, “It can be no other way.”

Thank you for what you will do for our country and your families – and God bless you all.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 19, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Address at Morehouse College Commencement Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Delivers the Commencement Address at Morehouse College

Source: WH, 5-19-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse CollegePresident Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., May 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Watch President Obama’s full address

President Obama delivered the commencement address to the 2013 graduates of Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA.

“It is one of the great honors of my life to be able to address this gathering here today,” President Obama told the graduates. He spoke about Morehouse’s history, and “ the unique sense of purpose that this place has always infused — the conviction that this is a training ground not only for individual success, but for leadership that can change the world.”

“Your generation is uniquely poised for success unlike any generation of African Americans that came before it,” President Obama said….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at Morehouse College Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 5-19-13 

Century Campus
Morehouse College
Atlanta, Georgia

12:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Morehouse!  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please be seated.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Laughter.)  That is why I am here.

I have to say that it is one of the great honors of my life to be able to address this gathering here today.  I want to thank Dr. Wilson for his outstanding leadership, and the Board of Trustees.  We have Congressman Cedric Richmond and Sanford Bishop — both proud alumni of this school, as well as Congressman Hank Johnson.  And one of my dear friends and a great inspiration to us all — the great John Lewis is here.  (Applause.)  We have your outstanding Mayor, Mr. Kasim Reed, in the house.  (Applause.)

To all the members of the Morehouse family.  And most of all, congratulations to this distinguished group of Morehouse Men — the Class of 2013.  (Applause.)

I have to say that it’s a little hard to follow — not Dr. Wilson, but a skinny guy with a funny name.  (Laughter.)  Betsegaw Tadele — he’s going to be doing something.

I also have to say that you all are going to get wet.  (Laughter.)  And I’d be out there with you if I could.  (Laughter.)  But Secret Service gets nervous.  (Laughter.)  So I’m going to have to stay here, dry.  (Laughter.)  But know that I’m there with you in spirit.  (Laughter.)

Some of you are graduating summa cum laude.  (Applause.)  Some of you are graduating magna cum laude.  (Applause.)  I know some of you are just graduating, “thank you, Lordy.”  (Laughter and applause.)  That’s appropriate because it’s a Sunday.  (Laughter.)

I see some moms and grandmas here, aunts, in their Sunday best — although they are upset about their hair getting messed up.  (Laughter.)  Michelle would not be sitting in the rain.  (Laughter.)  She has taught me about hair.  (Laughter.)

I want to congratulate all of you — the parents, the   grandparents, the brothers and sisters, the family and friends who supported these young men in so many ways.  This is your day, as well.  Just think about it — your sons, your brothers, your nephews — they spent the last four years far from home and close to Spelman, and yet they are still here today.  (Applause.)  So you’ve done something right.  Graduates, give a big round of applause to your family for everything that they’ve done for you. (Applause.)

I know that some of you had to wait in long lines to get into today’s ceremony.  And I would apologize, but it did not have anything to do with security.  Those graduates just wanted you to know what it’s like to register for classes here.  (Laughter and applause.)  And this time of year brings a different kind of stress — every senior stopping by Gloster Hall over the past week making sure your name was actually on the list of students who met all the graduation requirements.  (Applause.) If it wasn’t on the list, you had to figure out why.  Was it that library book you lent to that trifling roommate who didn’t return it?  (Laughter.)  Was it Dr. Johnson’s policy class?  (Applause.) Did you get enough Crown Forum credits?  (Applause.)

On that last point, I’m going to exercise my power as President to declare this speech sufficient Crown Forum credits for any otherwise eligible student to graduate.  That is my graduation gift to you.  (Applause.)  You have a special dispensation.

Now, graduates, I am humbled to stand here with all of you as an honorary Morehouse Man.  (Applause.)  I finally made it. (Laughter.)  And as I do, I’m mindful of an old saying: “You can always tell a Morehouse Man — (applause) — but you can’t tell him much.”  (Applause.)  And that makes my task a little more difficult, I suppose.  But I think it also reflects the sense of pride that’s always been part of this school’s tradition.

Benjamin Mays, who served as the president of Morehouse for almost 30 years, understood that tradition better than anybody.  He said — and I quote — “It will not be sufficient for Morehouse College, for any college, for that matter, to produce clever graduates… but rather honest men, men who can be trusted in public and private life — men who are sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society and who are willing to accept responsibility for correcting [those] ills.”

It was that mission — not just to educate men, but to cultivate good men, strong men, upright men — that brought community leaders together just two years after the end of the Civil War.  They assembled a list of 37 men, free blacks and freed slaves, who would make up the first prospective class of what later became Morehouse College.  Most of those first students had a desire to become teachers and preachers — to better themselves so they could help others do the same.

A century and a half later, times have changed.  But the “Morehouse Mystique” still endures.  Some of you probably came here from communities where everybody looked like you.  Others may have come here in search of a community.  And I suspect that some of you probably felt a little bit of culture shock the first time you came together as a class in King’s Chapel.  All of a sudden, you weren’t the only high school sports captain, you weren’t the only student council president.  You were suddenly in a group of high achievers, and that meant you were expected to do something more.

That’s the unique sense of purpose that this place has always infused — the conviction that this is a training ground not only for individual success, but for leadership that can change the world.

Dr. King was just 15 years old when he enrolled here at Morehouse.  He was an unknown, undersized, unassuming young freshman who lived at home with his parents.  And I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t the coolest kid on campus — for the suits he wore, his classmates called him “Tweed.”  But his education at Morehouse helped to forge the intellect, the discipline, the compassion, the soul force that would transform America.  It was here that he was introduced to the writings of Gandhi and Thoreau, and the theory of civil disobedience.  It was here that professors encouraged him to look past the world as it was and fight for the world as it should be.  And it was here, at Morehouse, as Dr. King later wrote, where “I realized that nobody…was afraid.”

Not even of some bad weather.  I added on that part.  (Laughter.)  I know it’s wet out there.  But Dr. Wilson told me you all had a choice and decided to do it out here anyway.  (Applause.)  That’s a Morehouse Man talking.

Now, think about it.  For black men in the ‘40s and the ‘50s, the threat of violence, the constant humiliations, large and small, the uncertainty that you could support a family, the gnawing doubts born of the Jim Crow culture that told you every day that somehow you were inferior, the temptation to shrink from the world, to accept your place, to avoid risks, to be afraid — that temptation was necessarily strong.

And yet, here, under the tutelage of men like Dr. Mays, young Martin learned to be unafraid.  And he, in turn, taught others to be unafraid.  And over time, he taught a nation to be unafraid.  And over the last 50 years, thanks to the moral force of Dr. King and a Moses generation that overcame their fear and their cynicism and their despair, barriers have come tumbling down, and new doors of opportunity have swung open, and laws and hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks just like you can somehow come to serve as President of these United States of America.  (Applause.)

So the history we share should give you hope.  The future we share should give you hope.  You’re graduating into an improving job market.  You’re living in a time when advances in technology and communication put the world at your fingertips.  Your generation is uniquely poised for success unlike any generation of African Americans that came before it.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have work — because if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that too few of our brothers have the opportunities that you’ve had here at Morehouse.  In troubled neighborhoods all across this country — many of them heavily African American — too few of our citizens have role models to guide them.  Communities just a couple miles from my house in Chicago, communities just a couple miles from here — they’re places where jobs are still too scarce and wages are still too low; where schools are underfunded and violence is pervasive; where too many of our men spend their youth not behind a desk in a classroom, but hanging out on the streets or brooding behind a jail cell.

My job, as President, is to advocate for policies that generate more opportunity for everybody — policies that strengthen the middle class and give more people the chance to climb their way into the middle class.  Policies that create more good jobs and reduce poverty, and educate more children, and give more families the security of health care, and protect more of our children from the horrors of gun violence.  That’s my job.  Those are matters of public policy, and it is important for all of us — black, white and brown — to advocate for an America where everybody has got a fair shot in life.  Not just some.  Not just a few.  (Applause.)

But along with collective responsibilities, we have individual responsibilities.  There are some things, as black men, we can only do for ourselves.  There are some things, as Morehouse Men, that you are obliged to do for those still left behind.  As Morehouse Men, you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you’re about to collect — and that’s the power of your example.

So what I ask of you today is the same thing I ask of every graduating class I address:  Use that power for something larger than yourself.  Live up to President Mays’s challenge.  Be “sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society.”  And be “willing to accept responsibility for correcting [those] ills.”

I know that some of you came to Morehouse from communities where life was about keeping your head down and looking out for yourself.  Maybe you feel like you escaped, and now you can take your degree and get that fancy job and the nice house and the nice car — and never look back.  And don’t get me wrong — with all those student loans you’ve had to take out, I know you’ve got to earn some money.   With doors open to you that your parents and grandparents could not even imagine, no one expects you to take a vow of poverty.  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.  (Applause.)

So, yes, go get that law degree.  But if you do, ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and the powerful, or if you can also find some time to defend the powerless.  Sure, go get your MBA, or start that business.  We need black businesses out there.  But ask yourselves what broader purpose your business might serve, in putting people to work, or transforming a neighborhood.  The most successful CEOs I know didn’t start out intent just on making money — rather, they had a vision of how their product or service would change things, and the money followed.  (Applause.)

Some of you may be headed to medical school to become doctors.  But make sure you heal folks in underserved communities who really need it, too.  For generations, certain groups in this country — especially African Americans — have been desperate in need of access to quality, affordable health care.  And as a society, we’re finally beginning to change that.  Those of you who are under the age of 26 already have the option to stay on your parent’s health care plan.  But all of you are heading into an economy where many young people expect not only to have multiple jobs, but multiple careers.

So starting October 1st, because of the Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as Obamacare — (applause) — you’ll be able to shop for a quality, affordable plan that’s yours and travels with you — a plan that will insure not only your health, but your dreams if you are sick or get in an accident.  But we’re going to need some doctors to make sure it works, too.  We’ve got to make sure everybody has good health in this country.  It’s not just good for you, it’s good for this country.  So you’re going to have to spread the word to your fellow young people.

Which brings me to a second point:  Just as Morehouse has taught you to expect more of yourselves, inspire those who look up to you to expect more of themselves.  We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices.  And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself.  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 sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing.  But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there’s no longer any room for excuses.  (Applause.)

I understand there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: “Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.”  Well, we’ve got no time for excuses.  Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not.  Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there.  It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive 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 that you have not earned.  (Applause.)

Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was.  Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination.  And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them.  And if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too.  (Applause.)

You now hail from a lineage and legacy of immeasurably strong men — men who bore tremendous burdens and still laid the stones for the path on which we now walk.  You wear the mantle of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, and Ralph Bunche and Langston Hughes, and George Washington Carver and Ralph Abernathy and Thurgood Marshall, and, yes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  These men were many things to many people.  And they knew full well the role that racism played in their lives.  But when it came to their own accomplishments and sense of purpose, they had no time for excuses.

Every one of you have a grandma or an uncle or a parent who’s told you that at some point in life, as an African American, you have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by.  I think President Mays put it even better:  He said, “Whatever you do, strive to do it so well that no man living and no man dead, and no man yet to be born can do it any better.”  (Applause.)

And I promise you, what was needed in Dr. Mays’s time, that spirit of excellence, and hard work, and dedication, and no excuses is needed now more than ever.  If you think you can just get over in this economy just because you have a Morehouse degree, you’re in for a rude awakening.  But if you stay hungry, if you keep hustling, if you keep on your grind and get other folks to do the same — nobody can stop you.  (Applause.)

And when I talk about pursuing excellence and setting an example, I’m not just talking about in your professional life.  One of today’s graduates, Frederick Anderson — where’s Frederick?  Frederick, right here.  (Applause.)  I know it’s raining, but I’m going to tell about Frederick.  Frederick  started his college career in Ohio, only to find out that his high school sweetheart back in Georgia was pregnant.  So he came back and enrolled in Morehouse to be closer to her.  Pretty soon, helping raise a newborn and working night shifts became too much, so he started taking business classes at a technical college instead — doing everything from delivering newspapers to buffing hospital floors to support his family.

And then he enrolled at Morehouse a second time.  But even with a job, he couldn’t keep up with the cost of tuition.  So after getting his degree from that technical school, this father of three decided to come back to Morehouse for a third time.  (Applause.)  As Frederick says, “God has a plan for my life, and He’s not done with me yet.”

And today, Frederick is a family man, and a working man, and a Morehouse Man.  (Applause.)  And that’s what I’m asking all of you to do:  Keep setting an example for what it means to be a man.  (Applause.)  Be the best husband to your wife, or you’re your boyfriend, or your partner.  Be the best father you can be to your children.  Because nothing is more important.

I was raised by a heroic single mom, wonderful grandparents — made incredible sacrifices for me.  And I know there are moms and grandparents here today who did the same thing for all of you.  But I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved.  Didn’t know my dad.  And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me.  I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home — (applause) — where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter.  I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.

It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice.  And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect.  She’s got a long list of my imperfections.  (Laughter.)  Even now, I’m still practicing, I’m still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father.  But I will tell you this:  Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.  (Applause.)

I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received.  I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters.  I’ll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I’ll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved.  And I’ll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

So be a good role model, set a good example for that young brother coming up.  If you know somebody who’s not on point, go back and bring that brother along — those who’ve been left behind, who haven’t had the same opportunities we have — they need to hear from you.  You’ve got to be engaged on the barbershops, on the basketball court, at church, spend time and energy and presence to give people opportunities and a chance.  Pull them up, expose them, support their dreams.  Don’t put them down.

We’ve got to teach them just like what we have to learn, 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.  When he got there, nobody would sit next to him in class.  But Chester didn’t mind.  Later on, he said, “It was the thing for me to do.  Someone needed to be the first.”  And today, Chester is here celebrating his 50th reunion.  Where is Chester Davenport?  He’s here.  (Applause.)

So if you’ve had role models, fathers, brothers like that — thank them today.  And if you haven’t, commit yourself to being that man to somebody else.

And finally, as you do these things, do them not just for yourself, but don’t even do them just for the African American community.  I want you to set your sights higher.  At the turn of the last century, W.E.B. DuBois spoke about the “talented tenth” — a class of highly educated, socially conscious leaders in the black community.  But it’s not just the African American community that needs you.  The country needs you.  The world needs you.

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.  If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy — the understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, to know what it’s like when you’re not born on 3rd base, thinking you hit a triple.  It should give you the ability to connect.  It should give you a sense of compassion and what it means to overcome barriers.

And I will tell you, Class of 2013, whatever success I have achieved, whatever positions of leadership I have held have depended less on Ivy League degrees or SAT scores or GPAs, and have instead been due to that sense of connection and empathy — the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had — because there but for the grace of God, go I — I might have been in their shoes.  I might have been in prison.  I might have been unemployed.  I might not have been able to support a family.  And that motivates me.  (Applause.)

So it’s up to you to widen your circle of concern — to care about justice for everybody, white, black and brown. Everybody.  Not just in your own community, but also across this country and around the world.  To make sure everyone has a voice, and everybody gets a seat at the table; that everybody, no matter what you look like or where you come from, what your last name is — it doesn’t matter, everybody gets a chance to walk through those doors of opportunity if they are willing to work hard enough.

When Leland Shelton was four years old — where’s Leland?  (Applause.)  Stand up, Leland.  When Leland Shelton was four years old, social services took him away from his mama, put him in the care of his grandparents.  By age 14, he was in the foster care system.  Three years after that, Leland enrolled in Morehouse.  And today he is graduating Phi Beta Kappa on his way to Harvard Law School.  (Applause.)  But he’s not stopping there. As a member of the National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council, he plans to use his law degree to make sure kids like him don’t fall through the cracks.  And it won’t matter whether they’re black kids or brown kids or white kids or Native American kids, because he’ll understand what they’re going through.  And he’ll be fighting for them.  He’ll be in their corner.  That’s leadership.  That’s a Morehouse Man right there.  (Applause.)

That’s what we’ve come to expect from you, Morehouse — a legacy of leaders — not just in our black community, but for the entire American community.  To recognize the burdens you carry with you, but to resist the temptation to use them as excuses.  To transform the way we think about manhood, and set higher standards for ourselves and for others.  To be successful, but also to understand that each of us has responsibilities not just to ourselves, but to one another and to future generations.  Men who refuse to be afraid.  Men who refuse to be afraid.

Members of the Class of 2013, you are heirs to a great legacy.  You have within you that same courage and that same strength, the same resolve as the men who came before you.  That’s what being a Morehouse Man is all about.  That’s what being an American is all about.

Success may not come quickly or easily.  But if you strive to do what’s right, if you work harder and dream bigger, if you set an example in your own lives and do your part to help meet the challenges of our time, then I’m confident that, together, we will continue the never-ending task of perfecting our union.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.  God bless you.  God bless Morehouse.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END         12:39 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Commencement Address to Ohio State University’s Class of 2013

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Here’s What President Obama Told the Class of 2013 at The Ohio State University

Source: WH, 5-5-13

President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during The Ohio State University (May 5, 2013)President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during The Ohio State University commencement at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, May 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Ohio State University is an institution that dedicates itself to “Education for Citizenship” — the Buckeye motto emblazoned on the school seal.

So when President Obama spoke to the Class of 2013 at the school’s graduation, citizenship was his theme….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at The Ohio State University Commencement

Source: WH, 5-5-13 

Ohio Stadium
Columbus, Ohio

1:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Hello, Buckeyes!  O-H!

AUDIENCE:  I-O!

THE PRESIDENT:  O-H!

AUDIENCE:  I-O!

THE PRESIDENT:  O-H!

AUDIENCE:  I-O!

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you so much.  Everybody, please be seated.  Thank you, Dr. Gee, for the wonderful introduction.  I suspect the good President may have edited out some other words that were used to describe me.  (Laughter.)  I appreciate that.  But I’m going to let Michelle know of all the good comments.

To the Board of Trustees; Congresswoman Beatty; Mayor Coleman; and all of you who make up The Ohio State University for allowing me to join you — it is an incredible honor.

And most of all, congratulations, Class of 2013!  (Applause.)  And of course, congratulations to all the parents, and family, and friends and faculty here in the Horseshoe — this is your day as well.  (Applause.)  I’ve been told to ask everybody, though, please be careful with the turf.  Coach Meyer has big plans for this fall.  (Laughter.)

I very much appreciate the President’s introduction.  I will not be singing today.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE:  Aww — (laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It is true that I did speak at that certain university up north a few years ago.  But, to be fair, you did let President Ford speak here once — and he played football for Michigan!  (Laughter.)  So everybody can get some redemption.

In my defense, this is my fifth visit to campus in the past year or so.  (Applause.)  One time, I stopped at Sloppy’s to grab some lunch.  Many of you — Sloopy’s — I know.  (Laughter.)  It’s Sunday and I’m coming off a foreign trip.  (Laughter.)  Anyway, so I’m at Sloopy’s and many of you were still eating breakfast.  At 11:30 a.m.  (Laughter.)  On a Tuesday.  (Laughter.)  So, to the Class of 2013, I will offer my first piece of advice:  Enjoy it while you can.  (Laughter.)  Soon, you will not get to wake up and have breakfast at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.  (Laughter.)  And once you have children, it gets even earlier.  (Laughter.)

But, Class of 2013, your path to this moment has wound you through years of breathtaking change.  You were born as freedom forced its way through a wall in Berlin, tore down an Iron Curtain across Europe.  You were educated in an era of instant information that put the world’s accumulated knowledge at your fingertips.  And you came of age as terror touched our shores; and an historic recession spread across the nation; and a new generation signed up to go to war.

So you’ve been tested and you’ve been tempered by events that your parents and I never imagined we’d see when we sat where you sit.  And yet, despite all this, or perhaps because of it, yours has become a generation possessed with that most American of ideas — that people who love their country can change it for the better.  For all the turmoil, for all the times you’ve been let down, or frustrated at the hand that you’ve been dealt, what I have seen — what we have witnessed from your generation — is that perennial, quintessentially American value of optimism; altruism; empathy; tolerance; a sense of community; a sense of service — all of which makes me optimistic for our future.

Consider that today, 50 ROTC cadets in your graduating class will become commissioned officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.  (Applause.)  A hundred and thirty of your fellow graduates have already served — some in combat, some on multiple deployments.  (Applause.)  Of the 98 veterans earning bachelor’s degrees today, 20 are graduating with honors, and at least one kept serving his fellow veterans when he came home by starting up a campus organization called Vets4Vets.  And as your Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of all of you.  (Applause.)

Consider that graduates of this university serve their country through the Peace Corps, and educate our children through established programs like Teach for America, startups like Blue Engine, often earning little pay for making the biggest impact.  Some of you have already launched startup companies of your own. And I suspect that those of you who pursue more education, or climb the corporate ladder, or enter the arts or science or journalism, you will still choose a cause that you care about in your life and will fight like heck to realize your vision.

There is a word for this.  It’s citizenship.  And we don’t always talk about this idea much these days — citizenship — let alone celebrate it.  Sometimes, we see it as a virtue from another time, a distant past, one that’s slipping from a society that celebrates individual ambition above all else; a society awash in instant technology that empowers us to leverage our skills and talents like never before, but just as easily allows us to retreat from the world.  And the result is that we sometimes forget the larger bonds we share as one American family.

But it’s out there, all the time, every day — especially when we need it most.  Just look at the past year.  When a hurricane struck our mightiest city, and a factory exploded in a small town in Texas, we saw citizenship.  When bombs went off in Boston, and when a malevolent spree of gunfire visited a movie theater, a temple, an Ohio high school, a 1st grade classroom in Connecticut, we saw citizenship.  In the aftermath of darkest tragedy, we have seen the American spirit at its brightest.

We’ve seen the petty divisions of color and class and creed replaced by a united urge to help each other.  We’ve seen courage and compassion, a sense of civic duty, and a recognition we are not a collection of strangers; we are bound to one another by a set of ideals and laws and commitments, and a deep devotion to this country that we love.

And that’s what citizenship is.  It’s at the heart of our founding — that as Americans, we are blessed with God-given talents and inalienable rights, but with those rights come responsibilities — to ourselves, and to one another, and to future generations.  (Applause.)

Now, if we’re being honest with ourselves, as you’ve studied and worked and served to become good citizens, the fact is that all too often the institutions that give structure to our society have, at times, betrayed your trust.  In the run-up to the financial crisis, too many on Wall Street forgot that their obligations don’t end with what’s happening with their shares. In entertainment and in the media, ratings and shock value often trump news and storytelling.

In Washington — well, this is a joyous occasion, so let me put it charitably — (laughter) — I think it’s fair to say our democracy isn’t working as well as we know it can.  It could do better.  (Applause.)  And so those of us fortunate enough to serve in these institutions owe it to you to do better every single day.

And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we can keep this idea of citizenship in its fullest sense alive at the national level — not just on Election Day, not just in times of tragedy, but all the days in between.  And perhaps because I spend a lot of time in Washington, I’m obsessed with this issue because that sense of citizenship is so sorely needed there.  And I think of what your generation’s traits — compassion and energy, and a sense of selflessness — might mean for a democracy that must adapt more quickly to keep up with the speed of technological and demographic, and wrenching economic change.

I think about how we might perpetuate this notion of citizenship in a way that another politician from my home state of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson, once described patriotism not as “short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”  That’s what patriotism is.  That’s what citizenship is.  (Applause.)

Now, I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I’m not going to offer some grand theory on a beautiful day like this — you guys all have celebrating to do.  I’m not going to get partisan, either, because that’s not what citizenship is about.  In fact, I’m asking the same thing of you that President Bush did when he spoke at this commencement in 2002:  “America needs more than taxpayers, spectators, and occasional voters,” he said. “America needs full-time citizens.”  (Applause.)  And as graduates from a university whose motto is “Education for Citizenship,” I know all of you get that this is what you’ve signed up for.  It’s what your country expects of you.

So briefly, I’ll ask for two things from the Class of 2013: to participate, and to persevere.  After all, your democracy does not function without your active participation.  At a bare minimum, that means voting, eagerly and often — not having somebody drag you to it at 11:30 a.m. when you’re having breakfast.  (Laughter.)  It means knowing who’s been elected to make decisions on your behalf, and what they believe in, and whether or not they delivered on what they said they would.  And if they don’t represent you the way you want, or conduct themselves the way you expect, if they put special interests above your own, you’ve got to let them know that’s not okay.  And if they let you down often enough, there’s a built-in day in November where you can really let them know it’s not okay.  (Applause.)

But participation, your civic duty, is more than just voting.  You don’t have to run for office yourself — but I hope many of you do, at all levels, because our democracy needs you.  And I promise you, it will give you a tough skin.  I know a little bit about this.  (Laughter.)  President Wilson once said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

And that’s precisely what the Founders left us — the power, each of us, to adapt to changing times.  They left us the keys to a system of self-government, the tools to do big things and important things together that we could not possibly do alone — to stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent.  To educate our people with a system of public schools and land-grant colleges, including The Ohio State University.  To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all of our citizens, regardless of who they are, or what they look like, or who they love.  (Applause.)

We, the people, chose to do these things together — because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition.

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works.  They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.  You should reject these voices.  Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.

We have never been a people who place all of our faith in government to solve our problems; we shouldn’t want to.  But we don’t think the government is the source of all our problems, either.  Because we understand that this democracy is ours.  And as citizens, we understand that it’s not about what America can do for us; it’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self-government.  (Applause.)  And, Class of 2013, you have to be involved in that process.  (Applause.)

The founders trusted us with this awesome authority.  We should trust ourselves with it, too.  Because when we don’t, when we turn away and get discouraged and cynical, and abdicate that authority, we grant our silent consent to someone who will gladly claim it.  That’s how we end up with lobbyists who set the agenda; and policies detached from what middle-class families face every day; the well-connected who publicly demand that Washington stay out of their business — and then whisper in government’s ear for special treatment that you don’t get.

That’s how a small minority of lawmakers get cover to defeat something the vast majority of their constituents want.  That’s how our political system gets consumed by small things when we are a people called to do great things — like rebuild a middle class, and reverse the rise of inequality, and repair the deteriorating climate that threatens everything we plan to leave for our kids and our grandkids.

Class of 2013, only you can ultimately break that cycle.  Only you can make sure the democracy you inherit is as good as we know it can be.  But it requires your dedicated, and informed, and engaged citizenship.  And that citizenship is a harder, higher road to take, but it leads to a better place.  It’s how we built this country — together.

It’s the question that President Kennedy posed to the nation at his inauguration.  It’s the dream that Dr. King invoked.  It does not promise easy success or immediate progress — but it has led to success, and it has led to progress.  And it has to continue with you.

Which brings me to the second thing I ask of all of you — I ask that you persevere.  Whether you start a business, or run for office, or devote yourself to alleviating poverty or hunger, please remember that nothing worth doing happens overnight.  A British inventor named Dyson went through more than 5,000 prototypes before getting that first really fancy vacuum cleaner just right.  We remember Michael Jordan’s six championships; we don’t remember his nearly 15,000 missed shots.  As for me, I lost my first race for Congress, and look at me now — I’m an honorary graduate of The Ohio State University.  (Applause.)

The point is, if you are living your life to the fullest, you will fail, you will stumble, you will screw up, you will fall down.  But it will make you stronger, and you’ll get it right the next time, or the time after that, or the time after that.  And that is not only true for your personal pursuits, but it’s also true for the broader causes that you believe in as well.

So you can’t give up your passion if things don’t work right away.  You can’t lose heart, or grow cynical if there are twists and turns on your journey.  The cynics may be the loudest voices — but I promise you, they will accomplish the least.  It’s those folks who stay at it, those who do the long, hard, committed work of change that gradually push this country in the right direction, and make the most lasting difference.

So whenever you feel that creeping cynicism, whenever you hear those voices saying you can’t do it, you can’t make a difference, whenever somebody tells you to set your sights lower — the trajectory of this great nation should give you hope.  What generations have done before you should give you hope.  Because it was young people just like you who marched and mobilized and stood up and sat in to secure women’s rights, and voting rights, and workers’ rights, and gay rights — often at incredible odds, often at great danger, often over the course of years, sometimes over the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime — and they never got acknowledged for it, but they made a difference.  (Applause.)

And even if their rights were already secured, there were those who fought to secure those same rights and opportunities for others.  And that should give you some hope.

Where we’re going should give you hope.  Because while things are still hard for a lot of people, you have every reason to believe that your future is bright.  You’re graduating into an economy and a job market that is steadily healing.  The once-dying American auto industry is on pace for its strongest performance in 20 years — something that means everything to many communities in Ohio and across the Midwest.  Huge strides in domestic energy, driven in part by research at universities like this one, have us on track to secure our own energy future.  Incredible advances in information and technology spurred largely by the risk-takers of your generation have the potential to change the way we do almost everything.

There is not another country on Earth that would not gladly change places with the United States of America.  And that will be true for your generation just as it was true for previous generations.

So you’ve got a lot to look forward to, but if there’s one certainty about the decade ahead, it’s that things will be uncertain.  Change will be a constant, just as it has been throughout our history.  And, yes, we still face many important challenges.  Some will require technological breakthroughs or new policy insights.  But more than anything, what we will need is political will — to harness the ingenuity of your generation, and encourage and inspire the hard work of dedicated citizens.  To repair the middle class, to give more families a fair shake, to reject a country in which only a lucky few prosper because that’s antithetical to our ideals and our democracy — all of this is going to happen if you are involved, because it takes dogged determination — the dogged determination of our citizens.

To educate more children at a younger age, and to reform our high schools for a new time, and to give more young people the chance to earn the kind of education that you did at The Ohio State University, and to make it more affordable so young people don’t leave with a mountain of debt — that will take the care and concern of citizens like you.  (Applause.)

To build better roads and airports and faster Internet, and to advance the kinds of basic research and technology that’s always kept America ahead of everybody else — that will take the grit and fortitude of citizens.

To confront the threat of climate change before it’s too late — that requires the idealism and the initiative of citizens.

To protect more of our kids from the horrors of gun violence — that requires the unwavering passion, the untiring resolve of citizens.  (Applause.)  It will require you.

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy told the class of 1963 that “our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man.  And man can be as big as he wants.”  We’re blessed to live in the greatest nation on Earth.  But we can always be greater.  We can always aspire to something more.  That doesn’t depend on who you elect to office.  It depends on you, as citizens, how big you want us to be, how badly you want to see these changes for the better.

And look at all that America has already accomplished.  Look at how big we’ve been.  I dare you, Class of 2013, to do better. I dare you to dream bigger.

And from what I’ve seen of your generation, I’m confident that you will.  And so I wish you courage, and compassion, and all the strength that you will need for that tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
1:26 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 5, 2013: President Barack Obama Gives Commencement Address at Ohio State University

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Gives Commencement Address at Ohio State University

President Barack Obama joins The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, left, and others in the processional before the start of commencement at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, May 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-5-13

In his first commencement address of this year’s graduation season, President Obama encouraged more than 10,000  graduates gathered at Ohio State University to pay heed to their duty as citizens and become active participants in their country in the years ahead.

“This democracy is ours. As citizens, we understand that it is not about what America may do for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self-government and to the class of 2013 you have to be involved in that process.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 23, 2012: President Barack Obama Says Military will Remain Strong Despite Cuts in Air Force Academy Commencement Address

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:


Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama greeted graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Wednesday.

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA SAYS MILITARY WILL REMAIN STRONG DESPITE CUTS IN AIR FORCE ACADEMY COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS

Military Will Withstand Cuts, Obama Tells Cadets

Source: NYT, 5-23-12

President Obama, speaking at the Air Force Academy graduation, described keeping the armed forces strong in the wake of tight budgets and the end of two wars….READ MORE

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the Air Force Academy Commencement

Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs, Colorado

10:29 A.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.  Good morning, everybody!  It is wonderful to be at the United States Air Force Academy on such a spectacular day.  And it is a privilege to join you in honoring the Class of 2012.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Secretary Donley for his introduction, but more importantly, for his leadership.  Generals Gould, Clark and Born; academy faculty and staff; Governor Hickenlooper; members of Congress; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

I especially want to acknowledge a graduate of this academy who has kept our Air Force strong through a time of great challenge, a leader I’ve relied on and for whom today is his final commencement as chief of staff — General Norton Schwartz. Norty, Suzie, we could not be prouder of you and we are grateful for 39 years of extraordinary service to our nation.  (Applause.)
And although he is not with us today, I’m proud to have nominated another Academy graduate, General Mark Welsh, as the next chief of staff.  (Applause.)

This is my second visit to the Academy.  I was here in the summer of 2008, and you were getting ready to head out to Jacks Valley.  So I was proud to be here when you began this journey, and I thought I’d come back and help you celebrate at the end.  (Laughter.)

It’s great to be back at a school that has produced so many of the airmen I’ve known as President.  Every day, I rely on outstanding Academy graduates who serve at the White House.  Some of you know that photo from the Situation Room on the day we delivered justice to bin Laden — you can see right next to me a great leader of our Special Operations forces, General Brad Webb.
Last month, I was able to present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to Coach Calhoun and the Fighting Falcons — (applause) — for the second straight year, a record 18th time.  And of course, every time I step on Air Force One, I count on Academy graduates like my pilot today — Colonel Scott Turner.  Now, I was going to tell you a joke about Scott, but he’s my ride home.  (Laughter.) So I’m going to have to keep it to myself.

Cadets, you distinguished yourselves as leaders before you ever stepped foot on the Terrazzo.  And when you arrived, I know your upper classmen gave you quite a welcome.  They let you experience the joy of the Beast.  The pleasure of Recognition.  They made you experts on filling out forms.  I only ask that you resist the temptation to rate my speech — “fast-neat-average-friendly-good-good.”  (Laughter and applause.)

But you survived.  In you we see the values of integrity and service and excellence that will define your lives.  And I know you couldn’t have made it without the love and support of your moms and dads and brothers and sisters and grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins.  So give them all a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

This Academy is one of the most demanding academic institutions in America.  And you have excelled.  I’m told you have set at least three Academy records:  The largest number of graduates ever to go directly on to graduate school; the largest number of female graduates in Academy history — (applause.)  You will follow in the footsteps of General Janet Wolfenbarger, who I was proud to nominate as the first female four-star general in Air Force history.  (Applause.)

And of course, your final and perhaps most impressive distinction — breaking the world’s record for the largest game of dodgeball — (applause) — 3,000 participants, 30 hours.  I didn’t know that was possible.  (Laughter.)  Of course, you are also the class that snuck into the Superintendent’s office and moved all the furniture into your dorm rooms — (laughter) — which does bring me to some important business.  In keeping with longstanding tradition, I hereby grant amnesty to all cadets serving restrictions and confinements for minor offenses.  (Applause.)  Of course, I leave it up to General Gould to define “minor.”  (Laughter.)

Cadets, this is the day you finally become officers in the finest Air Force in the world.  (Applause.)  Like generations before you, you’ll be charged with the responsibility of leading those under your command.  Like classes over the past 10 years, you graduate in a time of war and you may find yourselves in harm’s way.  But you will also face a new test, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

Four years ago, you arrived here at a time of extraordinary challenge for our nation.  Our forces were engaged in two wars.  Al Qaeda, which had attacked us on 9/11, was entrenched in their safe havens.  Many of our alliances were strained and our standing in the world had suffered.  Our economy was in the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Around the world and here at home, there were those that questioned whether the United States still had the capacity for global leadership.

Today, you step forward into a different world.  You are the first class in nine years that will graduate into a world where there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.  (Applause.)  For the first time in your lives — and thanks to Air Force personnel who did their part — Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to our country.  (Applause.)  We’ve put al Qaeda on the path to defeat. And you are the first graduates since 9/11 who can clearly see how we’ll end the war in Afghanistan.

So what does all this mean?  When you came here four years ago, there were some 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We’ve now cut that number by more than half.  And as more Afghans step up, more of our troops will come home -— while achieving the objective that led us to war in the first place and that is defeating al Qaeda and denying them safe haven. So we aren’t just ending these wars, we are doing so in a way that makes us safer and stronger.

Today we pay tribute to all our extraordinary men and women in uniform for their bravery, for their dedication.  Those who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to make this progress possible -— including 16 graduates of this Academy — we honor them.  We will always honor them.

For a decade, we have labored under the dark cloud of war.  And now, we can see a light — the light of a new day on the horizon.  So the end of these wars will shape your service and it will make our military stronger.  Ten years of continuous military operations have stretched our forces and strained their families.  Going forward, you’ll face fewer deployments.  You’ll have more time to train and stay ready.  That means you’ll be better prepared for the full range of missions you face.

And ending these wars will also ensure that the burden of our security no longer falls so heavily on the shoulders of our men and women in uniform.  As good as you are, you can’t be expected to do it alone.  There are many sources of American power -— diplomatic, economic and the power of our ideals.  And we’ve got to use them all.  And the good news is, today we are.

Around the world, the United States is leading once more.  From Europe to Asia, our alliances are stronger than ever.  Our ties with the Americas are deeper.  We’re setting the agenda in the region that will shape our long-term security and prosperity like no other — the Asia Pacific.

We’re leading on global security — reducing our nuclear arsenal with Russia, even as we maintain a strong nuclear deterrent; mobilizing dozens of nations to secure nuclear materials so they never fall into the hands of terrorists; rallying the world to put the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea, which cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.

We are leading economically — forging trade pacts to create new markets for our goods; boosting our exports, stamped with three proud words — Made in America.  (Applause.)  We’re expanding exchanges and collaborations in areas that people often admire most about America — our innovation, our science, our technology.

We’re leading on behalf of human dignity and on behalf of freedom — standing with the people of the Middle East and North Africa as they seek their rights; preventing a massacre in Libya with an international mission in which the United States — and our Air Force — led from the front.  (Applause.)  We’re leading global efforts against hunger and disease.  And we’ve shown our compassion, as so many airmen did in delivering relief to our neighbors in Haiti when they were in need and to our Japanese allies after the earthquake and tsunami.

Because of this progress, around the world there is a new feeling about America.  I see it everywhere I go, from London and Prague, to Tokyo and Seoul, to Rio and Jakarta.  There’s a new confidence in our leadership.  And when people around the world are asked, which country do you most admire, one nation comes out on top — the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Of course, the world stage is not a popularity contest.  As a nation, we have vital interests, and we will do what is necessary always to defend this country we love — even if it’s unpopular.  But make no mistake, how we’re viewed in the world has consequences — for our national security and for your lives.

See, when other countries and people see us as partners, they’re more willing to work with us.  It’s why more countries joined us in Afghanistan and Libya.  It’s why nations like Australia are welcoming our forces who stand side by side with allies and partners in the South Pacific.  It’s why Uganda and its African neighbors have welcomed our trainers to help defeat a brutal army that slaughters its citizens.

I think of the Japanese man in the disaster zone who, upon seeing our airmen delivering relief, said, “I never imagined they could help us so much.”  I think of the Libyans who protected our airman when he ejected over their town, because they knew America was there to protect them.  And in a region where we’ve seen burning of American flags, I think of all the Libyans who were waving American flags.

Today, we can say with confidence and pride the United States is stronger and safer and more respected in the world, because even as we’ve done the work of ending these wars, we’ve laid the foundation for a new era of American leadership.  And now, cadets, we have to build it.  We have to build on it.  You have to build on it.

Let’s start by putting aside the tired notion that says our influence has waned or that America is in decline.  We’ve heard that talk before.  During the Great Depression, when millions were unemployed and some believed that other economic models offered a better way, there were those who predicted the end of American capitalism.  Guess what, they were wrong.  We fought our way back.  We created the largest middle class in history and the most prosperous economy the world has ever known.

After Pearl Harbor some said, the United States has been reduced to a third-rate power.  Well, we rallied.  We flew over The Hump and took island after island.  We stormed the beaches and liberated nations.  And we emerged from that war as the strongest power on the face of the Earth.

After Vietnam and the energy crisis of the 1970s, some said America had passed its high point.  But the very next decade, because of our fidelity to the values we stand for, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and liberty prevailed over the tyranny of the Cold War.  (Applause.)

As recently as the 1980s with the rise of Japan and the Asian tigers, there were those who said we had lost our economic edge.  But we retooled.  We invested in new technologies.  We launched an Information Revolution that changed the world.

After all this, you would think folks understand a basic truth — never bet against the United States of America.  (Applause.)  And one of the reasons is that the United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs.  It’s one of the many examples of why America is exceptional.  It’s why I firmly believe that if we rise to this moment in history, if we meet our responsibilities, then — just like the 20th century — the 21st century will be another great American Century.  That’s the future I see.  That’s the future you can build.  (Applause.)

I see an American Century because we have the resilience to make it through these tough economic times.  We’re going to put America back to work by investing in the things that keep us competitive — education and high-tech manufacturing, science and innovation.  We’ll pay down our deficits, reform our tax code and keep reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  We need to get on with nation-building here at home.  And I know we can, because we’re still the largest, most dynamic, most innovative economy in the world.  And no matter what challenges we may face, we wouldn’t trade places with any other nation on Earth.

I see an American Century because you are part of the finest, most capable military the world has ever known.  No other nation even comes close.  Yes, as today’s wars end, our military — and our Air Force — will be leaner.  But as Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow us to make the mistakes of the past.  We still face very serious threats.  As we’ve seen in recent weeks, with al Qaeda in Yemen, there are still terrorists who seek to kill our citizens.  So we need you to be ready for the full range of threats.  From the conventional to the unconventional, from nations seeking weapons of mass destruction to the cell of terrorists planning the next attack, from the old danger of piracy to the new threat of cyber, we must be vigilant.

And so, guided by our new defense strategy, we’ll keep our military — and our Air Force — fast and flexible and versatile. We will maintain our military superiority in all areas — air, land, sea, space and cyber.  And we will keep faith with our forces and our military families.

And as our newest veterans rejoin civilian life, we will never stop working to give them the benefits and opportunities that they have earned — because our veterans have the skills to help us rebuild America, and we have to serve them as well as they have served us.  (Applause.)

I see an American Century because we have the strongest alliances of any nation.  From Europe to Asia, our alliances are the foundation of global security.  In Libya, all 28 NATO allies played a role and we were joined by partners in the air from Sweden to the Gulf states.  In Afghanistan, we’re in a coalition of 50 allies and partners.  Today, Air Force personnel are serving in 135 nations — partnering, training, building their capacity.  This is how peace and security will be upheld in the 21st century — more nations bearing the costs and responsibilities of leadership.  And that’s good for America.  It’s good for the world.  And we’re at the hub of it, making it happen.

I see an American Century because no other nation seeks the role that we play in global affairs, and no other nation can play the role that we play in global affairs.  That includes shaping the global institutions of the 20th century to meet the challenges of the 21st.  As President, I’ve made it clear the United States does not fear the rise of peaceful, responsible emerging powers — we welcome them.  Because when more nations step up and contribute to peace and security, that doesn’t undermine American power, it enhances it.

And when other people in other countries see that we’re rooting for their success, it builds trust and partnerships that can advance our interests for generations.  It makes it easier to meet common challenges, from preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to combating climate change.  And so we seek an international order where the rights and responsibilities of all nations and peoples are upheld, and where counties thrive by meeting their obligations and they face consequences when they don’t.

I see an American Century because more and more people are reaching toward the freedoms and values that we share.  No other nation has sacrificed more — in treasure, in the lives of our sons and daughters — so that these freedoms could take root and flourish around the world.  And no other nation has made the advancement of human rights and dignity so central to its foreign policy.  And that’s because it’s central to who we are, as Americans.  It’s also in our self-interest, because democracies become our closest allies and partners.

Sure, there will always be some governments that try to resist the tide of democracy, who claim theirs is a better way.  But around the world, people know the difference between us.  We welcome freedom —- to speak, to assemble, to worship, to choose your leaders.  They don’t.  We welcome the chance to compete for jobs and markets freely and fairly.  They don’t.  When fundamental human rights are threatened around the world, we stand up and speak out.  And they don’t.

We know that the sovereignty of nations cannot strangle the liberty of individuals.  And so we stand with the student in the street who demands a life of dignity and opportunity.  We stand with women everywhere who deserve the same rights as men.  We stand with the activists unbowed in their prison cells, and the leaders in parliament who’s moving her country towards democracy. We stand with the dissident who seeks the freedom to say what he pleases, and the entrepreneur who wants to start a business without paying a bribe, and all those who strive for justice and dignity.  For they know, as we do, that history is on the side of freedom.

And finally, I see an American Century because of the character of our country — the spirit that has always made us exceptional.  That simple yet revolutionary idea — there at our founding and in our hearts ever since — that we have it in our power to make the world anew, to make the future what we will.  It is that fundamental faith — that American optimism — which says no challenge is too great, no mission is too hard.  It’s the spirit that guides your class:  “Never falter, never fail.”  (Applause.)

That is the essence of America, and there’s nothing else like it anywhere in the world.  It’s what’s inspired the oppressed in every corner of the world to demand the same freedoms for themselves.  It’s what’s inspired generations to come to our shores, renewing us with their energy and their hopes.  And that includes a fellow cadet, a cadet graduating today, who grew up in Venezuela, got on a plane with a one-way ticket to America, and today is closer to his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot — Edward Camacho.  (Applause.)  Edward said what we all know to be true:  “I’m convinced that America is the land of opportunity.”

You’re right, Edward.  That is who we are.  That’s the America we love.  Always young, always looking ahead to that light of a new day on the horizon.  And, cadets, as I look into your eyes — as you join that Long Blue Line — I know you will carry us even farther, and even higher.  And with your proud service, I’m absolutely confident that the United States of America will meet the tests of our time.  We will remain the land of opportunity.  And we will stay strong as the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.

May God bless you.  May God bless the Class of 2012.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
10:56 A.M. MDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 21, 2012: President Barack Obama Gives the Joplin High School Commencement Address, One Year After Tornado Ripped Through Missouri

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Returns to Joplin

Source: WH, 5-21-12

President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address to the graduating seniors of Joplin High School (May 21, 2012)President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address to the graduating seniors of Joplin High School at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, May 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Speaking tonight to the first group of students to graduate from Joplin High School since a tornado ripped through the Missouri city one year ago, President Obama praised the resilience of its community.

“No matter how we might try to avoid it, life surely can bring some heartache, and life involves struggle.  And at some point life will bring loss,” he said. “But here in Joplin, you’ve also learned that we have the power to grow from these experiences.  We can define our lives not by what happens to us, but by how we respond.”

The President called the example set by the people of Joplin — in the hard work they’ve put into the recovery, in the imagination they’ve shown in remaking their city — “an inspiration.”

To learn more about the effort to rebuild Joplin, go to whitehouse.gov/joplin.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the Joplin High School Commencement

Missouri Southern State University
Joplin, Missouri

8:40 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat.  A few people I want to acknowledge.  First of all, you have an outstanding governor in Jay Nixon, and we are proud of all the work that he’s done.   I want to acknowledge Senator Claire McCaskill who is here.  (Applause.)  Representative Billy Long.   (Applause.)  Your mayor, Melodee Colbert Kean.  (Applause.)  Somebody who doesn’t get a lot of attention but does amazing work all across the country, including here in Joplin, the head of FEMA, the administrator, Craig Fugate, who spent an awful lot of time here helping to rebuild.  (Applause.)

Superintendent Huff.  (Applause.)  Principal Sachetta.  (Applause.)  To the faculty, the parents, the family, friends, the people of Joplin, and most of all the class of 2012.  (Applause.)  Congratulations on your graduation, and thank you for allowing me the honor of playing a small part in this special day.

Now, the job of a commencement speaker primarily is to keep it short.  Chloe, they’ve given me more than two minutes.  (Laughter.)  But the other job is to inspire.  But as I look out at this class, and across this city, what’s clear is that you’re the source of inspiration today.  To me.  To this state.  To this country.  And to people all over the world.

Last year, the road that led you here took a turn that no one could’ve imagined.  Just hours after the Class of 2011 walked across this stage, the most powerful tornado in six decades tore a path of devastation through Joplin that was nearly a mile wide and 13 long.  In just 32 minutes, it took thousands of homes, and hundreds of businesses, and 161 of your neighbors, friends and family.  It took a classmate Will Norton, who had just left this auditorium with a diploma in his hand.  It took Lantz Hare, who should’ve received his diploma next year.

By now, I expect that most of you have probably relived those 32 minutes again and again.  Where you were.  What you saw.  When you knew for sure that it was over.  The first contact, the first phone call you had with somebody you loved, the first day that you woke up in a world that would never be the same.

And yet, the story of Joplin isn’t just what happened that day.  It’s the story of what happened the next day.  And the day after that.  And all the days and weeks and months that followed.  As your city manager, Mark Rohr, has said, the people here chose to define the tragedy “not by what happened to us, but by how we responded.”

Class of 2012, that story is yours.  It’s part of you now.  As others have mentioned, you’ve had to grow up quickly over the last year.  You’ve learned at a younger age than most of us that we can’t always predict what life has in store.  No matter how we might try to avoid it, life surely can bring some heartache, and life involves struggle.  And at some point life will bring loss.

But here in Joplin, you’ve also learned that we have the power to grow from these experiences.  We can define our lives not by what happens to us, but by how we respond.  We can choose to carry on.  We can choose to make a difference in the world.  And in doing so, we can make true what’s written in Scripture -– that “tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.”

Of all that’s come from this tragedy, let this be the central lesson that guides us, let it be the lesson that sustains you through whatever challenges lie ahead.

As you begin the next stage in your journey, wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing, it’s safe to say you will encounter greed and selfishness, and ignorance and cruelty, sometimes just bad luck.  You’ll meet people who try to build themselves up by tearing others down.  You’ll meet people who believe that looking after others is only for suckers.

But you’re from Joplin.  So you will remember, you will know, just how many people there are who see life differently; those who are guided by kindness and generosity and quiet service.

You’ll remember that in a town of 50,000 people, nearly 50,000 more came in to help the weeks after the tornado -– perfect strangers who’ve never met you and didn’t ask for anything in return.

One of them was Mark Carr, who drove 600 miles from Rocky Ford, Colorado with a couple of chainsaws and his three little children.  One man traveled all the way from Japan, because he remembered that Americans were there for his country after last year’s tsunami, and he wanted the chance, he said, “to pay it forward.”  There were AmeriCorps volunteers who have chosen to leave their homes and stay here in Joplin till the work is done.

And then there was the day that Mizzou’s football team rolled into town with an 18-wheeler full of donated supplies.  And of all places, they were assigned to help out on Kansas Avenue.  (Laughter and applause.)  I don’t know who set that up.  (Laughter.)  And while they hauled away washing machines and refrigerators from the debris, they met a woman named Carol Mann, who had just lost the house she lived in for 18 years.  And Carol didn’t have a lot.  She works part-time at McDonald’s.  She struggles with seizures, and she told the players that she had even lost the change purse that held her lunch money.  So one of them, one of the players, went back to the house, dug through the rubble, and returned with the purse with $5 inside.

As Carol’s sister said, “So much of the news that you hear is so negative.  But these boys renewed my faith that there are so many good people in the world.”

That’s what you’ll remember.  Because you’re from Joplin.

You will remember the half million dollar donation that came from Angelina Jolie and some up-and-coming actor named Brad Pitt.  (Laughter.)  But you’ll also remember the $360 that was delivered by a nine-year-old boy who organized his own car wash.  You’ll remember the school supplies donated by your neighboring towns, but maybe you’ll also remember the brand new laptops that were sent from the United Arab Emirates -– a tiny country on the other side of the world.

When it came time for your prom, make-up artist Melissa Blayton organized an effort that collected over a 1,000 donated prom dresses, FedEx kicked in for the corsages, and Joplin’s own Liz Easton, who had lost her home and her bakery in the tornado, made a hundred — or 1,500 cupcakes for the occasion.  They were good cupcakes.  (Laughter.)

There are so many good people in the world.  There is such a decency, a bigness of spirit, in this country of ours.  And so, Class of 2012, you’ve got to remember that.  Remember what people did here.  And like that man who came all the way from Japan to Joplin, make sure in your own life that you pay it forward.

Now, just as you’ve learned the goodness of people, you’ve also learned the power of community.  And you’ve heard from some of the other speakers how powerful that is.  And as you take on the roles of co-worker and business owner — neighbor, citizen — you’ll encounter all kinds of divisions between groups, divisions of race and religion and ideology.  You’ll meet people who like to disagree just for the sake of being disagreeable.  (Laughter.)  You’ll meet people who prefer to play up their differences instead of focusing on what they have in common, where they can cooperate.

But you’re from Joplin.  So you will always know that it’s always possible for a community to come together when it matters most.  After all, a lot of you could’ve spent your senior year scattered throughout different schools, far from home.  But Dr. Huff asked everybody to pitch in so that school started on time, right here in Joplin.  He understood the power of this community, and he understood the power of place.

So these teachers worked extra hours; coaches put in extra time.  That mall was turned into a classroom.  The food court became a cafeteria, which maybe some of you thought was an improvement.  (Laughter.)  And, yes, the arrangements might have been a little noisy and a little improvised, but you hunkered down.  You made it work together.  You made it work together.

That’s the power of community.  Together, you decided that this city wasn’t about to spend the next year arguing over every detail of the recovery effort.  At the very first meeting, the first town meeting, every citizen was handed a Post-It note and asked to write down their goals and their hopes for Joplin’s future.  And more than a thousand notes covered an entire wall and became the blueprint that architects are following to this day.  I’m thinking about trying this with Congress, give them some Post-It notes.  (Laughter and applause.)

Together, the businesses that were destroyed in the tornado decided that they weren’t about to walk away from the community that made their success possible — even if it would’ve been easier, even if it would’ve been more profitable to go someplace else.  And so today, more than half the stores that were damaged on the Range Line are up and running again.  Eleven more are planning to join them.  And every time a company reopens its doors, people cheer the cutting of a ribbon that bears the town’s new slogan:  “Remember, rejoice, and rebuild.”  That’s community.

I’ve been told, Class of 2012, that before the tornado, many of you couldn’t wait to leave here once high school was finally over.  So Student Council President Julia Lewis — where is Julia?  She’s out here somewhere.  (Laughter.)  She is too embarrassed to raise her hand.  I’m quoting you, Julia.  She said, “We never thought Joplin was anything special” — now that’s typical with teenagers.  They don’t think their parents are all that special either — (laughter) — “but seeing how we responded to something that tore our community apart has brought us together.  Everyone has a lot more pride in our town.”  So it’s no surprise, then, that many of you have decided to stick around and go to Missouri Southern or go to colleges or community colleges that aren’t too far away from home.

That’s the power of community.  That’s the power of shared effort and shared memory.  Some of life’s strongest bonds are the ones we forge when everything around us seems broken.  And even though I expect that some of you will ultimately end up leaving Joplin, I’m pretty confident that Joplin will never leave you.  The people who went through this with you, the people who you once thought of as simply neighbors or acquaintances, classmates — the people in this auditorium tonight — you’re family now.  They’re your family.

And so, my deepest hope for all of you is that as you begin this new chapter in your life, you’ll bring that spirit of Joplin to every place you travel, to everything you do.  You can serve as a reminder that we’re not meant to walk this road alone, that we’re not expected to face down adversity by ourselves.  We need God.  We need each other.  We are important to each other and we’re stronger together than we are on our own.

And that’s the spirit that has allowed all of you to rebuild this city, and that’s the same spirit we need right now to help rebuild America.  And you, Class of 2012, you’re going to help lead this effort.  You’re the ones who will help build an economy where every child can count on a good education.  (Applause.)  You’re the one that’s going to make sure this country is a place where everybody who is willing to put in the effort can find a job that supports a family.  (Applause.)  You’re the ones that will make sure we’re a country that controls our own energy future, where we lead the world in science and technology and innovation.  America only succeeds when we all pitch in and pull together, and I’m counting on you to be leaders in that effort, because you’re from Joplin and you’ve already defied the odds.

Now, there are a lot of stories here in Joplin of unthinkable courage and resilience over the last year, but still there are some that stand out, especially on this day.  And, by now, most of you know Joplin High’s senior Quinton Anderson — look, he is already looking embarrassed.  Somebody is talking about him again.  But, Quinton, I’m going to talk about you anyway, because in a lot of ways, Quinton’s journey has been Joplin’s journey.

When the tornado struck, Quinton was thrown across the street from his house.  The young man who found Quinton couldn’t imagine that Quinton would survive his injuries.  Quinton woke up in a hospital bed three days later.  And it was then that his sister Grace told him that both their parents had been lost in the storm.

So Quinton went on to face over five weeks of treatment, including emergency surgery.  But he left that hospital determined to carry on, to live his life, to be there for his sister.  And over the past year, he’s been a football captain who cheered from the sidelines when he couldn’t play.  He worked that much harder so he could be ready for baseball in the spring.  He won a national scholarship as a finalist for the High School Football Rudy Awards.  He plans to study molecular biology at Harding University this fall.  (Applause.)

Quinton has said that his motto in life is “always take that extra step.”  And today, after a long and improbable journey for Quinton — and for Joplin and for the entire class of 2012 — that extra step is about to take you towards whatever future you hope for and whatever dreams you hold in your hearts.
Yes, you will encounter obstacles along the way.  I guarantee you will face setbacks and you will face disappointments.  But you’re from Joplin and you’re from America.  And no matter how tough times get, you’ll always be tougher.  And no matter what life throws at you, you will be ready.  You will not be defined by the difficulties you face, but by how you respond — with grace and strength and a commitment to others.

Langston Hughes, poet, civil rights activist who knew some tough times, he was born here in Joplin.  In a poem called “Youth,” he wrote:

We have tomorrow
Bright before us
Like a flame.
Yesterday
A night-gone thing,
A sun-down name.
And dawn-today.  Broad arc above the road we came.
We march.

To the people of Joplin and the Class of 2012, the road has been hard and the day has been long.  But we have tomorrow, so we march.  We march together, and you’re leading the way, because you’re from Joplin.  Congratulations.  May God bless you.  May God bless the Class of 2012.  May God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
9:04 P.M. CDT

White House Recap May 12-18, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Honors Barnard Graduates, Fallen Law Enforcement Officials, LA Galaxy — Awards Medal of Honor & Discussed Congress Economic “To-Do-List”

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: MAY 12-18, 2012

This week, the President discussed his plan to help responsible homeowners, honored law enforcement officers, awarded the Medal of Honor and continued to call on Congress to act on a “To Do List”

West Wing Week

Weekly Wrap Up: Courage and Sacrifice

Source: WH, 5-18-12

Fight for Your Seat: President Obama traveled to New York City to deliver his first commencement address of the year at Barnard College, one of the famous “Seven Sisters” private female liberal arts colleges. HIs first piece advice to the graduates was: “Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.”

Celebrating Soccer Champions: On Tuesday, President Obama welcomed the L.A. Galaxy to the White House to congratulate the team on their 2011 Major League Soccer Cup Championship. The star-studded team won a tough championship match after going undefeated at home all season long, and as President Obama noted, “You combined star power, hard work; it paid off.”

What Comes with the Badge: President Obama visited the U.S. Capitol for a ceremony where he paid tribute to law enforcement officials who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year. “Every American who wears the badge knows the burdens that come with it – the long hours and the stress; the knowledge that just about any moment could be a matter of life or death. You carry these burdens so the rest of us don’t have to,” the President said, acknowledging the bravery and sacrifice of all of those who serve as law enforcement officers across our country.

Above and Beyond: On Wednesday, President Obama awarded a Medal of Honor for valor above and beyond the call of duty to Leslie H. Sabo, Jr., an Army Specialist who died while serving in Cambodia in 1970. In honoring Sabo, who received the award posthumously, President Obama also paid tribute to those who served alongside him in the Vietnam era: “This medal is bestowed on a single soldier for his single courage. But it speaks to the service of an entire generation, and to the sacrifice of so many military families.”

Spruce Street at Taylor Gourmet: President Obama joined Small Business Administrator Karen Mills at Taylor Gourmet, a quickly expanding hoagie shop in Washington, D.C. for a roundtable with the business’ owners. President Obama discussed his To-Do List for Congress which includes passing legislation to help hard working small business owners create jobs by giving them a tax credit for new hires and tax relief for investments they make.

Fighting Global Hunger: At Friday’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, President Obama announced that leaders at the G8 meeting this weekend at Camp David would devote a special session to the chronic hunger facing nearly 1 billion people around the world. G8 and African leaders will launch a major new alliance with private sector partners with a clear goal of reducing hunger and lifting 50 million people out of poverty by investing in Africa’s agricultural economy.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 14, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Barnard College Commencement Ceremony Highlighted Role of Women in Public Life “Fight for a seat at the head of the table”

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama to Barnard College: “Fight for a seat at the head of the table”

AFP/Getty Images

President Obama delivers the commencement address at Barnard College on Monday in New York.

Source: WH, 5-14-12

President Barack Obama sits with Barnard College President Debora Spar (May 14, 2012)President Barack Obama sits with Barnard College President Debora Spar, left, and Chairwoman Jolyne Caruso-Fitzgerald before he delivers a commencement address for Barnard College graduates at Columbia University in New York, May 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
This afternoon, President Obama offered some advice to the 2012 graduates of Barnard College in New York:

After decades of slow, steady, extraordinary progress, you are now poised to make this the century where women shape not only their own destiny but the destiny of this nation and of this world.

But how far your leadership takes this country, how far it takes this world — well, that will be up to you. You’ve got to want it. It will not be handed to you. And as someone who wants that future — that better future — for you, and for Malia and Sasha, as somebody who’s had the good fortune of being the husband and the father and the son of some strong, remarkable women, allow me to offer just a few pieces of advice. That’s obligatory. Bear with me.

My first piece of advice is this:  Don’t just get involved.  Fight for your seat at the table.  Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.

Barnard is one of the famous “Seven Sisters” — private female liberal arts colleges founded to offer first class education to women before many elite institutions allowed their admittance. It counts Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama’s sister, among its alumni.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at Barnard College Commencement Ceremony

Barnard College
Columbia University
New York, New York
1:28 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please, please have a seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Thank you, President Spar, trustees, President Bollinger.  Hello, Class of 2012!  (Applause.)  Congratulations on reaching this day.  Thank you for the honor of being able to be a part of it.

There are so many people who are proud of you — your parents, family, faculty, friends — all who share in this achievement.  So please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  To all the moms who are here today, you could not ask for a better Mother’s Day gift than to see all of these folks graduate.  (Applause.)

I have to say, though, whenever I come to these things, I start thinking about Malia and Sasha graduating, and I start tearing up and — (laughter) — it’s terrible.  I don’t know how you guys are holding it together.  (Laughter.)

I will begin by telling a hard truth:  I’m a Columbia college graduate.  (Laughter and applause.)  I know there can be a little bit of a sibling rivalry here.  (Laughter.)  But I’m honored nevertheless to be your commencement speaker today — although I’ve got to say, you set a pretty high bar given the past three years.  (Applause.)  Hillary Clinton — (applause) — Meryl Streep — (applause) — Sheryl Sandberg — these are not easy acts to follow.  (Applause.)

But I will point out Hillary is doing an extraordinary job as one of the finest Secretaries of State America has ever had.  (Applause.)  We gave Meryl the Presidential Medal of Arts and Humanities.  (Applause.)  Sheryl is not just a good friend; she’s also one of our economic advisers.  So it’s like the old saying goes — keep your friends close, and your Barnard commencement speakers even closer.  (Applause.)  There’s wisdom in that.  (Laughter.)

Now, the year I graduated — this area looks familiar — (laughter) — the year I graduated was 1983, the first year women were admitted to Columbia.  (Applause.)  Sally Ride was the first American woman in space.  Music was all about Michael and the Moonwalk.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Do it!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No Moonwalking.  (Laughter.)  No Moonwalking today.  (Laughter.)

We had the Walkman, not iPods.  Some of the streets around here were not quite so inviting.  (Laughter.)  Times Square was not a family destination.  (Laughter.)  So I know this is all ancient history.  Nothing worse than commencement speakers droning on about bygone days.  (Laughter.)  But for all the differences, the Class of 1983 actually had a lot in common with all of you.  For we, too, were heading out into a world at a moment when our country was still recovering from a particularly severe economic recession.  It was a time of change.  It was a time of uncertainty.  It was a time of passionate political debates.

You can relate to this because just as you were starting out finding your way around this campus, an economic crisis struck that would claim more than 5 million jobs before the end of your freshman year.  Since then, some of you have probably seen parents put off retirement, friends struggle to find work.  And you may be looking toward the future with that same sense of concern that my generation did when we were sitting where you are now.

Of course, as young women, you’re also going to grapple with some unique challenges, like whether you’ll be able to earn equal pay for equal work; whether you’ll be able to balance the demands of your job and your family; whether you’ll be able to fully control decisions about your own health.

And while opportunities for women have grown exponentially over the last 30 years, as young people, in many ways you have it even tougher than we did.  This recession has been more brutal, the job losses steeper.  Politics seems nastier.  Congress more gridlocked than ever.  Some folks in the financial world have not exactly been model corporate citizens.  (Laughter.)

No wonder that faith in our institutions has never been lower, particularly when good news doesn’t get the same kind of ratings as bad news anymore.  Every day you receive a steady stream of sensationalism and scandal and stories with a message that suggest change isn’t possible; that you can’t make a difference; that you won’t be able to close that gap between life as it is and life as you want it to be.

My job today is to tell you don’t believe it.  Because as tough as things have been, I am convinced you are tougher.  I’ve seen your passion and I’ve seen your service.  I’ve seen you engage and I’ve seen you turn out in record numbers.  I’ve heard your voices amplified by creativity and a digital fluency that those of us in older generations can barely comprehend.  I’ve seen a generation eager, impatient even, to step into the rushing waters of history and change its course.

And that defiant, can-do spirit is what runs through the veins of American history.  It’s the lifeblood of all our progress.  And it is that spirit which we need your generation to embrace and rekindle right now.

See, the question is not whether things will get better — they always do.  The question is not whether we’ve got the solutions to our challenges — we’ve had them within our grasp for quite some time.  We know, for example, that this country would be better off if more Americans were able to get the kind of education that you’ve received here at Barnard — (applause) — if more people could get the specific skills and training that employers are looking for today.

We know that we’d all be better off if we invest in science and technology that sparks new businesses and medical breakthroughs; if we developed more clean energy so we could use less foreign oil and reduce the carbon pollution that’s threatening our planet.  (Applause.)

We know that we’re better off when there are rules that stop big banks from making bad bets with other people’s money and — (applause) — when insurance companies aren’t allowed to drop your coverage when you need it most or charge women differently from men.  (Applause.)  Indeed, we know we are better off when women are treated fairly and equally in every aspect of American life — whether it’s the salary you earn or the health decisions you make.  (Applause.)

We know these things to be true.  We know that our challenges are eminently solvable.  The question is whether together, we can muster the will — in our own lives, in our common institutions, in our politics — to bring about the changes we need.  And I’m convinced your generation possesses that will.  And I believe that the women of this generation — that all of you will help lead the way.  (Applause.)

Now, I recognize that’s a cheap applause line when you’re giving a commencement at Barnard.  (Laughter.)  It’s the easy thing to say.  But it’s true.  It is — in part, it is simple math.  Today, women are not just half this country; you’re half its workforce.  (Applause.)  More and more women are out-earning their husbands.  You’re more than half of our college graduates, and master’s graduates, and PhDs.  (Applause.)   So you’ve got us outnumbered.  (Laughter.)

After decades of slow, steady, extraordinary progress, you are now poised to make this the century where women shape not only their own destiny but the destiny of this nation and of this world.

But how far your leadership takes this country, how far it takes this world — well, that will be up to you.  You’ve got to want it.  It will not be handed to you.  And as someone who wants that future — that better future — for you, and for Malia and Sasha, as somebody who’s had the good fortune of being the husband and the father and the son of some strong, remarkable women, allow me to offer just a few pieces of advice.  That’s obligatory.  (Laughter.)  Bear with me.

My first piece of advice is this:  Don’t just get involved.  Fight for your seat at the table.  Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.  (Applause.)

It’s been said that the most important role in our democracy is the role of citizen.  And indeed, it was 225 years ago today that the Constitutional Convention opened in Philadelphia, and our founders, citizens all, began crafting an extraordinary document.  Yes, it had its flaws — flaws that this nation has strived to protect (perfect) over time.  Questions of race and gender were unresolved.  No woman’s signature graced the original document — although we can assume that there were founding mothers whispering smarter things in the ears of the founding fathers.   (Applause.)  I mean, that’s almost certain.

What made this document special was that it provided the space — the possibility — for those who had been left out of our charter to fight their way in.  It provided people the language to appeal to principles and ideals that broadened democracy’s reach.  It allowed for protest, and movements, and the dissemination of new ideas that would repeatedly, decade after decade, change the world — a constant forward movement that continues to this day.

Our founders understood that America does not stand still; we are dynamic, not static.  We look forward, not back.  And now that new doors have been opened for you, you’ve got an obligation to seize those opportunities.

You need to do this not just for yourself but for those who don’t yet enjoy the choices that you’ve had, the choices you will have.  And one reason many workplaces still have outdated policies is because women only account for 3 percent of the CEOs at Fortune 500 companies.  One reason we’re actually refighting long-settled battles over women’s rights is because women occupy fewer than one in five seats in Congress.

Now, I’m not saying that the only way to achieve success is by climbing to the top of the corporate ladder or running for office — although, let’s face it, Congress would get a lot more done if you did.  (Laughter and applause.)  That I think we’re sure about.  But if you decide not to sit yourself at the table, at the very least you’ve got to make sure you have a say in who does.  It matters.

Before women like Barbara Mikulski and Olympia Snowe and others got to Congress, just to take one example, much of federally-funded research on diseases focused solely on their effects on men.  It wasn’t until women like Patsy Mink and Edith Green got to Congress and passed Title IX, 40 years ago this year, that we declared women, too, should be allowed to compete and win on America’s playing fields.  (Applause.)  Until a woman named Lilly Ledbetter showed up at her office and had the courage to step up and say, you know what, this isn’t right, women weren’t being treated fairly — we lacked some of the tools we needed to uphold the basic principle of equal pay for equal work.

So don’t accept somebody else’s construction of the way things ought to be.  It’s up to you to right wrongs.  It’s up to you to point out injustice.  It’s up to you to hold the system accountable and sometimes upend it entirely.  It’s up to you to stand up and to be heard, to write and to lobby, to march, to organize, to vote.  Don’t be content to just sit back and watch.

Those who oppose change, those who benefit from an unjust status quo, have always bet on the public’s cynicism or the public’s complacency.  Throughout American history, though, they have lost that bet, and I believe they will this time as well.  (Applause.)  But ultimately, Class of 2012, that will depend on you.  Don’t wait for the person next to you to be the first to speak up for what’s right.  Because maybe, just maybe, they’re waiting on you.

Which brings me to my second piece of advice:  Never underestimate the power of your example.  The very fact that you are graduating, let alone that more women now graduate from college than men, is only possible because earlier generations of women — your mothers, your grandmothers, your aunts — shattered the myth that you couldn’t or shouldn’t be where you are.  (Applause.)

I think of a friend of mine who’s the daughter of immigrants.  When she was in high school, her guidance counselor told her, you know what, you’re just not college material.  You should think about becoming a secretary.  Well, she was stubborn, so she went to college anyway.  She got her master’s.  She ran for local office, won.  She ran for state office, she won.  She ran for Congress, she won.  And lo and behold, Hilda Solis did end up becoming a secretary — (laughter) — she is America’s Secretary of Labor.  (Applause.)

So think about what that means to a young Latina girl when she sees a Cabinet secretary that looks like her.  (Applause.)  Think about what it means to a young girl in Iowa when she sees a presidential candidate who looks like her.  Think about what it means to a young girl walking in Harlem right down the street when she sees a U.N. ambassador who looks like her.  Do not underestimate the power of your example.

This diploma opens up new possibilities, so reach back, convince a young girl to earn one, too.  If you earned your degree in areas where we need more women — like computer science or engineering — (applause) — reach back and persuade another student to study it, too.  If you’re going into fields where we need more women, like construction or computer engineering — reach back, hire someone new.  Be a mentor.  Be a role model.

Until a girl can imagine herself, can picture herself as a computer programmer, or a combatant commander, she won’t become one.  Until there are women who tell her, ignore our pop culture obsession over beauty and fashion — (applause) — and focus instead on studying and inventing and competing and leading, she’ll think those are the only things that girls are supposed to care about.  Now, Michelle will say, nothing wrong with caring about it a little bit.  (Laughter.)  You can be stylish and powerful, too.  (Applause.)  That’s Michelle’s advice.  (Applause.)

And never forget that the most important example a young girl will ever follow is that of a parent.  Malia and Sasha are going to be outstanding women because Michelle and Marian Robinson are outstanding women.  So understand your power, and use it wisely.

My last piece of advice — this is simple, but perhaps most important:  Persevere.  Persevere.  Nothing worthwhile is easy.  No one of achievement has avoided failure — sometimes catastrophic failures.  But they keep at it.  They learn from mistakes.  They don’t quit.

You know, when I first arrived on this campus, it was with little money, fewer options.  But it was here that I tried to find my place in this world.  I knew I wanted to make a difference, but it was vague how in fact I’d go about it.  (Laughter.)  But I wanted to do my part to do my part to shape a better world.

So even as I worked after graduation in a few unfulfilling jobs here in New York — I will not list them all — (laughter) — even as I went from motley apartment to motley apartment, I reached out.  I started to write letters to community organizations all across the country.  And one day, a small group of churches on the South Side of Chicago answered, offering me work with people in neighborhoods hit hard by steel mills that were shutting down and communities where jobs were dying away.

The community had been plagued by gang violence, so once I arrived, one of the first things we tried to do was to mobilize a meeting with community leaders to deal with gangs.  And I’d worked for weeks on this project.  We invited the police; we made phone calls; we went to churches; we passed out flyers.  The night of the meeting we arranged rows and rows of chairs in anticipation of this crowd.  And we waited, and we waited.  And finally, a group of older folks walked in to the hall and they sat down.  And this little old lady raised her hand and asked, “Is this where the bingo game is?”  (Laughter.)  It was a disaster.  Nobody showed up.  My first big community meeting — nobody showed up.

And later, the volunteers I worked with told me, that’s it; we’re quitting.  They’d been doing this for two years even before I had arrived.  They had nothing to show for it.  And I’ll be honest, I felt pretty discouraged as well.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  I thought about quitting.  And as we were talking, I looked outside and saw some young boys playing in a vacant lot across the street.  And they were just throwing rocks up at a boarded building.  They had nothing better to do  — late at night, just throwing rocks.  And I said to the volunteers, “Before you quit, answer one question.  What will happen to those boys if you quit?  Who will fight for them if we don’t?  Who will give them a fair shot if we leave?

And one by one, the volunteers decided not to quit.  We went back to those neighborhoods and we kept at it.  We registered new voters, and we set up after-school programs, and we fought for new jobs, and helped people live lives with some measure of dignity.  And we sustained ourselves with those small victories.  We didn’t set the world on fire.  Some of those communities are still very poor.  There are still a lot of gangs out there.  But I believe that it was those small victories that helped me win the bigger victories of my last three and a half years as President.

And I wish I could say that this perseverance came from some innate toughness in me.  But the truth is, it was learned.  I got it from watching the people who raised me.  More specifically, I got it from watching the women who shaped my life.

I grew up as the son of a single mom who struggled to put herself through school and make ends meet.  She had marriages that fell apart; even went on food stamps at one point to help us get by.  But she didn’t quit.  And she earned her degree, and made sure that through scholarships and hard work, my sister and I earned ours.  She used to wake me up when we were living overseas — wake me up before dawn to study my English
lessons.  And when I’d complain, she’d just look at me and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”  (Laughter.)

And my mom ended up dedicating herself to helping women
around the world access the money they needed to start their own businesses — she was an early pioneer in microfinance.  And that meant, though, that she was gone a lot, and she had her own struggles trying to figure out balancing motherhood and a career.  And when she was gone, my grandmother stepped up to take care of me.

She only had a high school education.  She got a job at a local bank.  She hit the glass ceiling, and watched men she once trained promoted up the ladder ahead of her.  But she didn’t quit.  Rather than grow hard or angry each time she got passed over, she kept doing her job as best as she knew how, and ultimately ended up being vice president at the bank.  She didn’t quit.

And later on, I met a woman who was assigned to advise me on my first summer job at a law firm.  And she gave me such good advice that I married her.  (Laughter.)  And Michelle and I gave everything we had to balance our careers and a young family.  But let’s face it, no matter how enlightened I must have thought myself to be, it often fell more on her shoulders when I was traveling, when I was away.  I know that when she was with our girls, she’d feel guilty that she wasn’t giving enough time to her work, and when she was at her work, she’d feel guilty she wasn’t giving enough time to our girls.  And both of us wished we had some superpower that would let us be in two places at once.  But we persisted.  We made that marriage work.

And the reason Michelle had the strength to juggle everything, and put up with me and eventually the public spotlight, was because she, too, came from a family of folks who didn’t quit — because she saw her dad get up and go to work every day even though he never finished college, even though he had crippling MS.  She saw her mother, even though she never finished college, in that school, that urban school, every day making sure Michelle and her brother were getting the education they deserved.  Michelle saw how her parents never quit.  They never indulged in self-pity, no matter how stacked the odds were against them.  They didn’t quit.

Those are the folks who inspire me.  People ask me sometimes, who inspires you, Mr. President?  Those quiet heroes all across this country — some of your parents and grandparents who are sitting here — no fanfare, no articles written about them, they just persevere.  They just do their jobs.  They meet their responsibilities.  They don’t quit.  I’m only here because of them.  They may not have set out to change the world, but in small, important ways, they did.  They certainly changed mine.

So whether it’s starting a business, or running for office, or raising a amazing family, remember that making your mark on the world is hard.  It takes patience.  It takes commitment.  It comes with plenty of setbacks and it comes with plenty of failures.

But whenever you feel that creeping cynicism, whenever you hear those voices say you can’t make a difference, whenever somebody tells you to set your sights lower — the trajectory of this country should give you hope.  Previous generations should give you hope.  What young generations have done before should give you hope.  Young folks who marched and mobilized and stood up and sat in, from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall, didn’t just do it for themselves; they did it for other people.  (Applause.)

That’s how we achieved women’s rights.  That’s how we achieved voting rights.  That’s how we achieved workers’ rights.  That’s how we achieved gay rights.  (Applause.)  That’s how we’ve made this Union more perfect.  (Applause.)

And if you’re willing to do your part now, if you’re willing to reach up and close that gap between what America is and what America should be, I want you to know that I will be right there with you.  (Applause.)  If you are ready to fight for that brilliant, radically simple idea of America that no matter who you are or what you look like, no matter who you love or what God you worship, you can still pursue your own happiness, I will join you every step of the way.  (Applause.)

Now more than ever — now more than ever, America needs what you, the Class of 2012, has to offer.  America needs you to reach high and hope deeply.  And if you fight for your seat at the table, and you set a better example, and you persevere in what you decide to do with your life, I have every faith not only that you will succeed, but that, through you, our nation will continue to be a beacon of light for men and women, boys and girls, in every corner of the globe.

So thank you.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
2:00 P.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz May 12, 2012: Mitt Romney Delivers Commencement Address At Christian & Conservative Liberty University — Woos Evangeligals with Speech on Faith, Family Values & Spirituality

CAMPAIGN 2012

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger published by Facts on File, Inc. in 2011.

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Mitt Romney

(AP Photo)

IN FOCUS: MITT ROMNEY GIVES COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS AT CHRISTIAN & CONSERVATIVE LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

Romney Woos Evangelicals at Liberty University: Speaking at Liberty University, Mitt Romney sought to quell concerns among evangelical voters by offering a forceful defense of Christian values and faith in public life…. – NYT, 5-12-12

 

  • Romney seeks evangelical votes; opposes gay marriage: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sought on Saturday to calm fears that his Mormon faith would be an obstacle to evangelical Christian voters, stressing shared conservative values while…. – Reuters, 5-12-12
  • Mitt Romney courts evangelicals at Liberty University: Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion has been a problem for some evangelicals. At conservative Liberty University Saturday, Romney stressed Christian values without mentioning his own faith, part of an apparently successful effort to win over evangelicals and other social conservatives…. – CS Monitor, 5-12-12
  • Mitt Romney delivers deeply spiritual address, but avoids his Mormonism, at Liberty University: Making by far his most spiritual speech of his presidential campaign, Republican Mitt Romney on Saturday offered a fierce defense of Judeo-Christian values and an America that he said “has trusted in God, not man.”… – WaPo, 5-12-12
  • Wooing evangelicals, Romney evokes faith and Christian traditions: Seeking to connect with the community of evangelicals that has been cold to his candidacy for many months, Mitt Romney delivered a commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday that delved deeply into his faith … LAT, 5-12-12
  • Romney addreses gay marriage issue at Liberty Univ, saying ‘one man and one woman’: Mitt Romney delivered a commencement speech Saturday at Liberty University in which he focused largely on a message of faith, family, hard work and service, but he also addressed the emerging same-sex marriage issue by saying “marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”
    The remark drew a loud applause for the likely GOP presidential candidate who faced a big test in trying to win over evangelical voters…. Fox News, 5-12-12
  • Romney reaches out to evangelicals in Liberty speech: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney reached out to evangelicals in a commencement speech at Liberty University Saturday that focused largely on the importance of faith and spirituality…. – USA Today, 5-12-12
  • Romney Urges Grads to Honor Family Commitments: Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith has shaped his life, but he barely mentioned it as he spoke to graduates at an evangelical university Saturday…. – ABC News, 5-12-12
  • Mormon Romney delivers commencement speech at Baptist university: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received applause from a crowd at Liberty University in Virginia when he stated that marriage should only be between a man and a woman…. – msnbc.com, 5-12-12
  • For Romney, speech at Christian college offers test: There are not many Mitt Romney fan clubs at Liberty University. The Lynchburg, Virginia, school, founded by the late television evangelist Jerry Falwell, is a bastion for conservative Christian thought…. – Reuters, 5-11-12

Mitt Romney Delivers Commencement Address At Liberty University

Source: Mitt Romney Press, 4-12-12

Location

Boston, MA

United States

Mitt Romney today delivered the commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The following remarks were prepared for delivery:

For the graduates, this moment marks a clear ending and a clear beginning.  The task set before you four years ago is now completed in full.  To the class of 2012: Well done, and congratulations.

Some of you may have taken a little longer than four years to complete your studies.  One graduate has said that he completed his degree in only two terms:  Clinton’s and Bush’s.

In some ways, it is fitting that I share this distinction with Truett Cathy.  The Romney campaign comes to a sudden stop when we spot a Chick-fil-A.  Your chicken sandwiches were our comfort food through the primary season, and there were days that we needed a lot of comforting.  So, Truett, thank you and congratulations on your well-deserved honor today.

There are some people here who are even more pleased than the graduates.  Those would be the parents.  Their years of prayers, devotion, and investment have added up to this joyful achievement.  And with credit to Congressman Dick Armey:  The American Dream is not owning your own home, it is getting your kids out of the home you own.

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about life in four-year stretches.  And let’s just say that not everybody has achieved as much in these last four years as you have.

That’s a theme for another day. But two observations.  First, even though job opportunities are scarce in this economy, it is not for nothing that you have spent this time preparing. Jerry Falwell, Senior, long ago observed that “You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.”  America needs your skill and talent.  If we take the right course, we will see a resurgence in the American economy that will surprise the world, and that will open new doors of opportunity for those who are prepared as you are.

Of course, what the next four years might hold for me is yet to be determined.  But I will say that things are looking up, and I take your kind hospitality today as a sign of good things to come.

I consider it a great life honor to address you today.  Your generosity of spirit humbles me.  The welcoming spirit of Liberty is a tribute to the gracious Christian example of your founder.

In his 73 years of life, Dr. Falwell left a big mark.  For nearly five decades he shared that walk with his good wife Macel.  It’s wonderful to see her today.  The calling Jerry answered was not an easy one.  Today we remember him as a courageous and big-hearted minister of the Gospel who never feared an argument, and never hated an adversary.  Jerry deserves the tribute he would have treasured most, as a cheerful, confident champion for Christ.

I will always remember his cheerful good humor and selflessness.  Several years ago, in my home, my wife and I were posing for a picture together with him.  We wanted him to be in the center of the photo, but he insisted that Ann be in the middle, with he and I on the sides.  He explained, by pointing to me and himself, “You see, Christ died between two thieves.”

Maybe the most confident step Jerry ever took was to open the doors of this school 41 years ago.

He believed that Liberty might become one of the most respected Christian universities anywhere on earth.  And so it is today.

He believed, even when the first graduating class consisted of 13 students, that year after year young Christians would be drawn to such a university in ever-greater numbers.  And here you are.

Today, thanks to what you have gained here, you leave Liberty with conviction and confidence as your armor. You know what you believe.  You know who you are.  And you know Whom you will serve.  Not all colleges instill that kind of confidence, but it will be among the most prized qualities from your education here.  Moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals will set you apart in a world that searches for meaning.

That said, your values will not always be the object of public admiration.  In fact, the more you live by your beliefs, the more you will endure the censure of the world. Christianity is not the faith of the complacent, the comfortable or of the timid. It demands and creates heroic souls like Wesley, Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer, John Paul the Second, and Billy Graham. Each showed, in their own way, the relentless and powerful influence of the message of Jesus Christ.  May that be your guide.

You enter a world with civilizations and economies that are far from equal.  Harvard historian David Landes devoted his lifelong study to understanding why some civilizations rise, and why others falter.  His conclusion:  Culture makes all the difference.  Not natural resources, not geography, but what people believe and value. Central to America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life.

The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family.

The power of these values is evidenced by a Brookings Institution study that Senator Rick Santorum brought to my attention.  For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2%.  But, if those things are absent, 76% will be poor.  Culture matters.

As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate.  So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage.  Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.

The protection of religious freedom has also become a matter of debate.  It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with.  Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government.

But from the beginning, this nation trusted in God, not man.  Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution.  And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.

Religious freedom opens a door for Americans that is closed to too many others around the world.  But whether we walk through that door, and what we do with our lives after we do, is up to us.

Someone once observed that the great drama of Christianity is not a crowd shot, following the movements of collectives or even nations.  The drama is always personal, individual, unfolding in one’s own life.  We’re not alone in sensing this.  Men and women of every faith, and good people with none at all, sincerely strive to do right and lead a purpose-driven life.

And, in the way of lessons learned, by hitting the mark or by falling short, I can tell you this much for sure.

All that you have heard here at Liberty University – about trusting in God and in His purpose for each of us–makes for more than a good sermon.  It makes for a good life.  So many things compete for our attention and devotion.  That doesn’t stop as you get older.  We are all prone, at various turns, to treat the trivial things as all-important, the all-important things as trivial, and little by little lose sight of the one thing that endures forever.

No person I have ever met, not even the most righteous or pure of heart, has gone without those times when faith recedes in the busy-ness of life.  It’s normal, and sometimes even the smallest glimpses of the Lord’s work in our lives can reawaken our hearts.  They bring us back to ourselves – and, better still, to something far greater than ourselves.

What we have, what we wish we had – ambitions fulfilled, ambitions disappointed … investments won, investments lost … elections won, elections lost – these things may occupy our attention, but they do not define us.  And each of them is subject to the vagaries and serendipities of life.  Our relationship with our Maker, however, depends on none of this.  It is entirely in our control, for He is always at the door, and knocks for us.  Our worldly successes cannot be guaranteed, but our ability to achieve spiritual success is entirely up to us, thanks to the grace of God.  The best advice I know is to give those worldly things your best but never your all, reserving the ultimate hope for the only one who can grant it.

Many a preacher has advised the same, but few as memorably as Martin Luther King, Jr.  “As a young man,” he said, “with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow.  But to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

In this life, the commitments that come closest to forever are those of family.

My Dad, George Romney, was a CEO, a governor, and a member of the President’s Cabinet.  My wife Ann asked him once, “What was your greatest accomplishment?”  Without a moment’s pause, he said, “Raising our four kids.”

Ann and I feel the same way about our family.  I have never once regretted missing a business opportunity so that I could be with my children and grandchildren.  Among the things in life that can be put off, being there when it matters most isn’t one of them.

As C.S. Lewis is said to have remarked, “The home is the ultimate career.  All other careers exist for one purpose, and that is to support the ultimate career.”

Promotions often mark the high points in a career, and I hope I haven’t seen my last.  But sometimes the high points come in unexpected ways.  I was asked to help rescue the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

I’m embarrassed now to recall that when this opportunity was first presented to me, I dismissed it out of hand.  I was busy, I was doing well, and, by the way, my lack of athletic prowess did not make the Olympics a logical step.  In fact, after I had accepted the position, my oldest son called me and said, “Dad, I’ve spoken to the brothers.  We saw the paper this morning.  We want you to know there’s not a circumstance we could have conceived of that would put you on the front page of the sports section.”

The Olympics were not a logical choice, but it was one of the best and most fulfilling choices of my life.  Opportunities for you to serve in meaningful ways may come at inconvenient times, but that will make them all the more precious.

People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology.  Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview.  The best case for this is always the example of Christian men and women working and witnessing to carry God’s love into every life – people like the late Chuck Colson.

Not long ago, Chuck recounted a story from his days just after leaving prison.  He was assured by people of influence that, even with a prison record, a man with his connections and experience could still live very comfortably.  They would make some calls, get Chuck situated, and set him up once again as an important man.  His choice at that crossroads would make him, instead, a great man.

The call to service is one of the fundamental elements of our national character.  It has motivated every great movement of conscience that this hopeful, fair-minded country of ours has ever seen.  Sometimes, as Dr. Viktor Frankl observed in a book for the ages, it is not a matter of what we are asking of life, but rather what life is asking of us.  How often the answer to our own troubles is to help others with theirs.

In all of these things – faith, family, work, and service –the choices we make as Americans are, in other places, not choices at all.  For so many on this earth, life is filled with orders, not options, right down to where they live, the work they do, and how many children the state will permit them to have.  All the more reason to be grateful, this and every day, that we live in America, where the talents God gave us may be used in freedom.

At this great Christian institution, you have all learned a thing or two about these gifts and the good purposes they can serve.  They are yours to have and yours to share.  Sometimes, your Liberty education will set you apart, and always it will help direct your path.  And as you now leave, and make for new places near and far, I hope for each one of you that your path will be long and life will be kind.

The ideals that brought you here … the wisdom you gained here … and the friends you found here – may these blessings be with you always, wherever you go.

Thank you all, and God bless you.

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