Entries in Commencement (4)


Obama Strikes Personal Tone in Commencement Speech on Race, Manhood

Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post(ATLANTA) -- President Obama said Sunday that he is motivated by the knowledge that “but for the grace of God … I might have been in prison,” in a commencement address at historically black Morehouse College, where he spoke frankly about race and young men’s responsibilities to 500 male graduates.

In his second commencement address of this graduation season, the president called on the graduates to set examples for others and reach out to those who need help, telling them that as a black man he felt a unique connection to assist those in need because he could have faced similar circumstances.

“There but for the grace of God go I, I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison,” he said at the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College. “I might have been unemployed, I might not have been able to support a family, and that motivates me.”

The president said that many young black men “make bad choices,” but told the graduates, “We’ve got no time for excuses,” because the difficulties they’ve faced “pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured, and if they overcame them, you can too.”

“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 that there is no longer any room for excuses,” he said.

The president spoke in extremely personal terms about growing up without a father present in his life, attributing his upbringing to his “heroic single mother,” and said that his legacy will be defined by his success as an active father and husband, a role he encouraged the graduates to adopt in their own lives.

“My whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me,” he said. “I want to break that cycle where a father’s not at home, where a father’s not helping to raise that son or daughter.  I’ve tried to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.

“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 about the Nobel Prize I received,” he said. “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.”

The president, who received an honorary degree from the school, honored one of the college’s famous graduates, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who “helped to forge the intellect, the discipline, the compassion, the soul force that would transform America.”

“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,” he said. “Laws, 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.”

Rain poured down on the crowd throughout the ceremony, forcing many in attendance to don plastic ponchos, and thunder rang out and lightning flickered in the sky as Obama wound down his speech.  The president stayed dry on stage but sympathized with the rain-soaked graduates and attendees, even noting that his wife, Michelle Obama, would not be pleased with the rainy day because of what it would do to her famous hair.

“You all are going to get wet, and I’d be out there with you if I could, but Secret Service gets nervous. So I’m going to have to stay here dry, but know that I’m there with you in spirit,” he said. “Michelle would not be sitting in the rain. She has taught me about hair.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Gives Commencement Address at Ohio State University

iStockphoto(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- 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.”

Obama said as he delivered the commencement address before more than 57,000 people at the football stadium at Ohio State University.

The president drew on recent tragedies, from the Boston marathon bombing to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as he relayed the way actively engaged citizens have rallied together in the country’s time of need.

“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 first-grade classroom in Connecticut. We saw citizenship. In the aftermath of darkest tragedy, we have seen the American spirit at its brightest,” he said.

“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,” he said.

But as he offered his advice to the graduates, he acknowledged that this duty must also be renewed by lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

“In Washington – well, this is a joyous occasion, so let me put this charitably: I think it’s fair to say our democracy isn’t working as well as we know it can. It could do better,” he said.

The president told the students that before you can reach success, you must endure failure, pointing to basketball legend Michael Jordan and himself as examples.

“We remember Michael Jordan’s six championships, we don’t remember nearly 15,000 missed shots,” he said. “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!”

The president was presented with an honorary doctorate along with photographer Annie Liebovitz, Yale Professor Thomas Pollard and Reinhard Rummel, whose career focuses on studying the earth’s gravity field.

Obama traveled to Ohio numerous times during the presidential election last year and referenced one of his stops at Sloopy’s, which he mispronounced as he imparted some advice on the new graduates.

“One time, I stopped at Sloppy’s to grab some lunch. Many of you – it’s Sloopy’s, I know…I’m coming off a foreign trip,” he joked. “Many of you were still eating breakfast at 11:30 on a Tuesday. So to the class of 2013 I’ll offer my first piece of advice early: enjoy it while you still can. Soon, you will not get to wake up and have breakfast at 11:30 on a Tuesday. And once you have kids, it gets even earlier.”

As he closed out his address, he challenged the Class of 2013 “to do better.”

“Look at all America has accomplished. Look at how big we’ve been. I dare you class of 2013 to do better. I dare you to dream bigger,” he said. “From what I have seen of your generation, I have no doubt you will. I wish you courage, and compassion, and all the strength you need for that tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Biden Reflects on Civil Rights Movement, Urges Grads to ‘Imagine’

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WESTON, Fla.) -- Vice President Joe Biden on Monday offered a poignant personal reflection on the Civil Rights movement and his subsequent role in the administration of the first black U.S. president, urging graduates at a Florida high school to dream big and “imagine the progress you will see and achieve in your lifetime.”

“When Bull Connor sicced his dogs on women and children peacefully assembling in their Sunday best, it awakened an entire nation and inspired my generation, a generation most of whom had never seen anything like that before,” Biden said of the infamous Birmingham, Ala., police commissioner in his commencement address at Cyprus Bay High School in Weston, Fla.

“And many people of my parents’ generation and mine wondered, would we ever be able to bring this country together, to live together?  Would we ever be able to have real equality in the face of that kind of brutality that the television screen brought into our living rooms?” he recalled.

Biden said that as a young public defender, fresh out of law school, he “still imagined, with my generation, that we could heal this God-awful situation.”

Decades later, shortly after Election Day 2008, Biden said he powerfully realized just how far the country had come.

“Forty years from the time Dr. King was assassinated, I was standing on a railroad platform in Wilmington, Delaware,” he said.  “It was January 17, 2009 -- a bitter, cold, but glorious day.  Thousands of people were in the streets of Wilmington and the parking lots, waiting for the same thing I was," the vice president said.

“As I stood on that platform and waited, I looked out over my city -- a part of the city that was in chaos when I had returned 40 years earlier, when I imagined and prayed we could live together,” he said.  “I was standing there with those thousands of other people, waiting for a man on a train coming from Philadelphia to pick me up and take me a short 125-mile train ride, a ride I had literally taken several thousand times before as a U.S. senator, to Washington D.C.; only, this time, for a very different purpose, I was being picked up by a friend, and African American friend.  Barack Obama."

“We were taking that short ride to be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States of America,” Biden said.  “Not only can and do we live together -- we now govern together.  That much can change in 40 years.  Just think what’s going to change in the next 40 years of your life.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


John Boehner Gets Teary During Commencement Address

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images (File)(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker John Boehner delivered an emotional commencement address at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, even shedding a few tears while telling the graduates they should embody certain virtues.

"Humility, patience and faith, and always a few tears from me," Boehner said.

Boehner became teary while telling a story about the morning of his leadership election in 2006, when he said he prayed to the Virgin Mary for guidance. He said on that morning when he thought he received no sign, he got a call from his former high school football coach, Gerry Faust.

"It was old coach Faust," Boehner said choking up, "calling to wish me luck, and telling me you can do it. You know I've never gotten a call from the Blessed Mother before and I don't think I ever will, but I got to tell you it was pretty darn close."

Boehner also shed a few tears when he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by the university at the ceremony.

Boehner delivered the main commencement address at the ceremony which was held at the east steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the university’s campus.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio