President Obama addressed the Ohio State University class of 2013 in a rousing commencement speech on Sunday.
His speech was a call-to-service for the millennial generation. President Obama recognized many of the forces distorting American politics today, including increased economic inequality and the rise of lobbyists and special interest groups. Despite the recognition of these challenges, his message to the class of 2013 was an empowering one:
"Class of 2013, only you can ultimately break that cycle, only you can make sure the democracy you inherit is as good as we know it can be. But it requires your dedicated and informed and engaged citizenship. And that citizenship is a harder, higher road to take, but it leads to a better place."
See the video below for highlights of his moving speech:
If you are moved by these words, the full speech is also worth listening to.
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The founders trusted us with this awesome authority. We should trust ouselves with it too.
Because when we don't, when we turn away and get discouraged and cynical and abdicate that authority, we grant our silent consent to someone who will gladly claim it.
That's how we end up with lobbyists who set the agenda, and policies detached from what middle class families face every day.The well-connected who publicily demand that Washington stay out of their business, and then whisper in government's ear for special treatment that you don't get. That's how a small minority of lawmakers get cover to defeat something the vast majority of their constitutents want.
That's how our political system gets consumed by small things, when we are a people called to do great things, like rebuild a middle class and reverse the rise of inequality and repair the deterioriated climate that threatens everything we plan to leave for our kids and our grandkids.
Class of 2013, only you can ultimately break that cycle, only you can make sure the democracy you inherit is as good as we know it can be. But it requires your dedicated and informed and engaged citizenship. And that citizenship is a harder, higher road to take, but it leads to a better place.
50 years ago, President Kennedy told the class of 1963 that our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man, and man can be as big as he wants.
We're blessed to live in the greatest nation on Earth. But we can always be greater. We can always aspire to something more. It doesn't depend on who you elect to office, it depends on you as citizens: how big you want us to be, how badly you want these changes for the better.
And look at all Americans have accomplished, look how big we've been. I dare you, class of 2013, to do better. I dare you to dream bigger.