“This is a joyous occasion, so let me put it charitably: I think it’s fair to say our democracy isn’t working as well as we know it can,” Obama said.
Invoking the end of the Cold War, 9/11 and the economic recession, Obama said this generation had been tested beyond what their parents could have imagined. But he said young Americans have responded with a deep commitment to service and a conviction that they can improve their surroundings. He urged graduates to run for office, start a business or join a cause, contending that the health of their democracy “requires your dedicated, informed and engaged citizenship.”
“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,” Obama said. “You should reject these voices. Because what these suggest is that somehow our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”
Among the 10,143 students receiving diplomas at this sprawling state university Sunday were 130 veterans, including the first class to benefit from the new GI Bill that Congress passed after 9/11, university officials said.
Ohio State also bestowed an honorary doctorate on Obama, applauding his “unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose.” Also honored was photographer Annie Leibovitz, whose images of Obama and his family have become iconic reflections on the nation’s first black president.
Obama’s other two commencement speeches this season will be later in May at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and at Morehouse College, an all-male school in Atlanta.