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What Obama wants YOU to know!

June 18, 2014 18:36 IST

Image: Barack Obama addresses graduates at UC Irvine on June 14, 2014.
Photographs: Larry Downing/Reuters

The American President's advice to the graduating class of University of California at Irvine wasn't just for the graduating class of University of California at Irvine.

There are some lessons for us too.

Here are some excerpts from Barack Obama's commencement speech.

Read on and be inspired...

.....In your young lives, you've seen dizzying change, from terror attacks to economic turmoil; from Twitter to Tumblr. Some of your families have known tough times during the course of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

You're graduating into a still-healing job market, and some of you are carrying student loan debt that you're concerned about. And yet, your generation -- the most educated, the most diverse, the most tolerant, the most politically independent and the most digitally fluent in our history -- is also on record as being the most optimistic about our future.

And I'm here to tell you that you are right to be optimistic. (Applause.) You are right to be optimistic.

Consider this: Since the time most of you graduated from high school, fewer Americans are at war.

More have health insurance. More are graduating from college.

Our businesses have added more than nine million new jobs.

The number of states where you're free to marry who you love has more than doubled. (Applause.) And that's just some of the progress that you've seen while you've been studying here at UC Irvine.

....But we do face real challenges:

Rebuilding the middle class and reversing inequality's rise. Reining in college costs. Protecting voting rights.

Welcoming the immigrants and young dreamers who keep this country vibrant.

Stemming the tide of violence that guns inflict on our schools.

We've got some big challenges.

And if you're fed a steady diet of cynicism that says nobody is trustworthy and nothing works, and there's no way we can actually address these problems, then the temptation is too just go it alone, to look after yourself and not participate in the larger project of achieving our best vision of America.

And I'm here to tell you, don't believe the cynicism. Guard against it. Don't buy into it.

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What Obama wants YOU to know!

Image: Students listen as US President Barack Obama speaks during the commencement ceremony for the University of California, Irvine at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California.
Photographs: Larry Downing/Reuters

Your generation reminds me of something President Wilson once said.  

He said, "Sometimes people call me an idealist.  Well, that is the way I know I am an American."  That's who we are.  

And if you need a reason to be optimistic about our future, then look around this stadium.

Because today, in America, the largest single age group is 22 years ago.  

And you are going to do great things.  And I want you to know that I’ve got your back....

Climate change is a big problem.  But progress, no matter how big the problem, is possible.

That’s important to remember.

Because no matter what you do in life, you're going to run up against big problems -- in your own personal life and in your communities and in your country.

There’s going to be a stubborn status quo, and there are going to be people determined to stymie your efforts to bring about change.  

There are going to be people who say you can't do something.  There are going to be people who say you shouldn't bother.

I've got some experience in this myself.  (Laughter.)


What Obama wants YOU to know!

Image: US President Barack Obama yells "Zot! Zot! Zot!" to honour the school mascot, the anteater, as he attends the commencement ceremony for the University of California, Irvine at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California.
Photographs: Larry Downing/Reuters

I want to tell you all this not to discourage you.

I'm telling you all this because I want to light a fire under you.  

As the generation getting shortchanged by inaction on this issue, I want all of you to understand you cannot accept that this is the way it has to be.

….I'm going to keep doing my part for as long as I hold this office and as long as I'm a citizen once out of office.

But we're going to need you, the next generation, to finish the job.

We need scientists to design new fuels.  

We need farmers to help grow them.  

We need engineers to invent new technologies.  

We need entrepreneurs to sell those technologies. (Applause.)  

We need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components.

We need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a clean energy age.

We need diplomats and businessmen and women, and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip past the dirty phase of development and transition to sustainable sources of energy.

In other words, we need you. (Applause.)  

We need you.  

And if you believe, like I do, that something has to be done on this, then you’re going to have to speak out.  

You’re going to have to learn more about these issues.  

Even if you're not like Jessica and an expert, you're going to have to work on this.  

You’re going to have to push those of us in power to do what this American moment demands.  

You’ve got to educate your classmates, and colleagues, and family members and fellow citizens, and tell them what’s at stake.

You’ve got to push back against the misinformation, and speak out for facts, and organize others around your vision for the future.

You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.

And you’ve got to remind everyone who represents you, at every level of government, that doing something about climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.

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What Obama wants YOU to know!

Image: Students listen to President Obama during the commencement ceremony for the University of California, Irvine at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California.
Photographs: Larry Downing/Reuters

It’s no accident that when President Kennedy needed to convince the nation that sending Americans into space was a worthy goal, he went to a university.

That’s where he started.

Because a challenge as big as that, as costly as that, as difficult as that, requires a spirit of youth.

It requires a spirit of adventure; a willingness to take risks.

It requires optimism. It requires hope.

That day, a man told us we’d go to the moon within a decade.

And despite all the naysayers, somehow we knew as a nation that we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet that goal.

Progress won’t always be flashy; it will be measured in disasters averted, and lives saved, and a planet preserved -- and days just like this one, 20 years from now, and 50 years from now, and 100 years from now.

But can you imagine a more worthy goal -- a more worthy legacy -- than protecting the world we leave to our children?

So I ask your generation to help leave us that legacy.

I ask you to believe in yourselves and in one another, and above all, when life gets you down or somebody tells you ‘you can’t do something’, to believe in something better.

There are people here who know what it means to dream.

When Mohamad Abedi was a boy, the suffering he saw in refugee camps in Lebanon didn’t drive him into despair -- it inspired him to become a doctor.

And when he came to America, he discovered a passion for engineering.

So here, at UC Irvine, he became a biomedical engineer to study the human brain. (Applause.) And Mohamad said, "Had I never come to the United States, I would have never had the ability to do the work that I’m doing.” He’s now going to CalTech to keep doing that work.

Cinthia Flores is the daughter of a single mom who worked as a seamstress and a housekeeper. (Applause.) The first in her family to graduate from high school. The first in her family to graduate from college.

And in college, she says, "I learned about myself that I was good at advocating for others, and that I was argumentative -- so maybe I should go to law school.”

And, today, Cinthia is now the first in her family to graduate from law school.

She plans to advocate for the rights of workers like her mom. (Applause.)

She says, "I have the great privilege and opportunity to answer the call of my community."

"The bottom line," she says, "is being of service."

On 9/11, Aaron Anderson was a sophomore in college.

Several months later, he was in training for Army Special Forces.

He fought in Afghanistan, and on February 28th, 2006, he was nearly killed by an IED.

He endured dozens of surgeries to save his legs, months of recovery at Walter Reed.

When he couldn’t physically return to active duty, he devoted his time to his brothers in arms, starting two businesses with fellow veterans, and a foundation to help fellow wounded Green Beret soldiers.

And then he went back to school.

Last December, he graduated summa cum laude from UC Irvine.

And Aaron is here today, along with four soon-to-be commissioned ROTC cadets, and 65 other graduating veterans.

And I would ask them to stand and be recognised for their service. (Applause.)

The point is, you know how to dream. And you know how to work for your dreams.

And, yes, sometimes you may be "super underrated."

But usually it’s the underrated, the underdogs, the dreamers, the idealists, the fighters, the argumentative -- those are the folks who do the biggest things.

And this generation -- this 9/11 generation of soldiers; this new generation of scientists and advocates and entrepreneurs and altruists -- you’re the antidote to cynicism.

It doesn't mean you’re not going to get down sometimes.

You will. You’ll know disillusionment. You’ll experience doubt.

People will disappoint you by their actions. But that can't discourage you.

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What Obama wants YOU to know!

Image: US president Barack Obama receives a medallion from University of California, Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake
Photographs: Larry Downing/Reuters

Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or started a business, or fed a young mind, or sent men into space.

Cynicism is a choice.  Hope is a better choice.  (Applause.)

Hope is what gave young soldiers the courage to storm a beach and liberate people they never met.

Hope is what gave young students the strength to sit in and stand up and march for women's rights, and civil rights, and voting rights, and gay rights, and immigration rights.

Hope is the belief, against all evidence to the contrary, that there are better days ahead, and that together we can build up a middle class, and reshape our immigration system, and shield our children from gun violence, and shelter future generations from the ravages of climate change.

Hope is the fact that, today, the single largest age group in America is 22 years old who are all just itching to reshape this country and reshape the world.  

And I cannot wait to see what you do tomorrow.

Congratulations.  (Applause.)

Thank you, Class of 2014.