COLUMBUS, Ohio Acknowledging that commencement addresses are no place for partisanship, President Barack Obama nonetheless skirted close to that political line on Sunday, telling graduates at Ohio State University to ignore anti-government arguments that “gum up the works” and instead aspire to be citizens who value both individual rights and community responsibilities.
“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,” Obama told the crowd at the Ohio State commencement ceremony, which totaled almost 60,000 people. “They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
Ohio State graduates, their families and friends turned the university’s huge football stadium into a sea of red and gray, the school’s colors.
“While things are still hard for a lot of people, you have every reason to believe that your future is bright,” Obama said. “You are graduating into an economy and a job market that are steadily healing.”
The president described the graduates’ generation as having “a deep sense of service that makes me optimistic for our future.” Ohio State’s class of 2013, he noted, included military veterans, volunteers for the Peace Corps and Teach for America, and entrepreneurs who are already running startup companies.
Their lives, he said, started as the Cold War was ending and the Internet age was beginning, and they came of age as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, wars, recession and technological advances transformed America.
“You have 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,” he said. “And yet despite all this, or more likely 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.”
Obama urged the graduates to find not just a career but a cause for the greater good. Perhaps, he said, they might even run for public office.
“I promise you, it’ll give you a tough skin. I know a little bit about this,” he said. “President Wilson once said, ‘If you want to make enemies, try to change something.’ ”
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