Obama at UM: ‘Be active, be informed’Written by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
ANN ARBOR — President Barack Obama challenged the 2010 University of Michigan graduates to be active, informed participants of their community and country.
“We the people hold in our in our hands the power to choose our leaders and change our lives and shape our own destiny,” he said during his May 1 appearance.
Obama told the graduates when they leave they will search for work in an economy that is emerging from the worse crisis since the Great Depression. He said the changing times often spark passion and lead to debate within government.
“As our world grows smaller, you will live, work with more people who don’t look like you or think like you or come where you do … All these changes and all these challenges inevitably cause some tension in the body of politics. They make people worry about the future, and sometimes they get people riled up,” Obama said.
Despite challenges and differences of opinion within government, Obama emphasized the importance to looking at history. He said historically politics has never been a nice business, and the American people have had to fight for the republic.
Political debate has long fought over the role of government, he said. The debate shouldn’t be whether politics should be big or small, it should be how to create a smarter government, Obama said.
Obama told the students that no matter how bleak politics may become with, as name calling and “talking heads” become more common, they should be active participants in their government and community.
“You might think to yourself ‘what’s the point of getting involved?’ Here’s the point: when we don’t pay close attention to the decisions made by our leaders; when we fail to educate ourselves about the major issues of the day; when we choose not to make our voices and opinions heard; that’s when democracy breaks down,” Obama said. “That’s when power is abused. That’s when the most extreme voices in our society fill the void that we leave. That’s when powerful interests and their lobbyists are most able to buy access and influence in the corridors of Washington — because none of us are there to speak up and stop them.”
Obama said there is no guarantee that the rights we have toda, will be the same 10, 50 or 100 years down the road, because America’s destiny has never been certain. He said the only thing that is certain is Americans’ ability to shape the nation’s destiny.
During the ceremony, Obama was presented an honorary degree, Doctorate of Laws.
Following the presentation to graduates, the president administered the oath of office to the members of the ROTC units, commissioning them as officers to the Army and Marine Corps.
Obama is the third sitting president to deliver a commencement speech at the University of Michigan and the 12th past, present or future president to visit the campus.
More than 8,500 graduates participated in commencement and more than 80,000 people attended the ceremony inside the Michigan Stadium. During a normal spring graduation, between 30,000 and 40,000 people attend.