Exactly one year after kicking off his re-election campaign on the campus of Ohio State University, President Obama returned Sunday to deliver his first commencement speech of the season. He is the third sitting president to deliver a commencement speech at the university.
In his remarks, Obama urged the 10,000 graduates, whose lives have been marked by such events as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a national economic crisis, mass shootings and the Boston Marathon bombings, to strive to become responsible citizens and engage in public service.
"You've 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 perhaps 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."
Echoing a sentiment expressed by the late President John F. Kennedy in 1961, Obama told the students that democracy "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." He also called on them to reject the voices that blame government for the nation's problems and challenged them to address key issues, such as educational and economic opportunity, climate change and gun violence, with "dogged determination."
America, he added, is the world's greatest nation, but its citizens can help it become greater.
"It depends on you, as citizens, how big you want us to be, how badly you want to see these changes for the better," Obama said. "And look at all that America has already accomplished. Look at how big we’ve been. I dare you, Class of 2013, to do better. I dare you to dream bigger."
The president, who received an honorary doctorate, is scheduled to speak at Morehouse College on May 19 and the U.S. Naval Academy on May 24.
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(Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)