Top 2013 Commencement Speeches by Politicians

PHOTO: First lady Michelle Obama gives a thumbs up in response to students' cheers after she handed out diplomas to graduates of Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Magnet High School on Saturday, May 18, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn.
Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

Politicians of every stripe are often popular speakers at commencement addresses throughout the nation. As graduation season winds down, check out some of the best commencement speeches made by politicians in 2013.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during a ceremony at Morehouse College on May 19, 2013 in Atlanta.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Barack Obama

Morehouse College, Naval Academy Commencement Addresses

President Barack Obama's commencement address at Morehouse College drew both criticism and praise for its tough-talk style and blunt discussion of race at the historically black all-male college.

"Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination." Obama said. "And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you've gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them. And if they overcame them, you can overcome them too."

The May 19 speech drew special attention from observers for the president's overt acknowledgement of gay males to the audience.

To the all-male audience, he said, "Be the best husband to your wife, or your boyfriend, or your partner."

Obama Strikes Personal Tone in Commencement Speech on Race, Manhood

Then on May 24, Obama traveled to the Naval Academy, where he delivered a commencement that emphasized the need to restore trust in our institutions and referred directly to sexual misconduct issues within the military.

"It only takes the misconduct of a few to further erode people's trust in their government," Obama said. "Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong."

Obama Nods to Drones in Naval Academy Speech

PHOTO: New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg delivers the address at the Kenyon College 185th Commencement on May 18, 2013.
NYC Mayors Office
Michael Bloomberg

Kenyon College Commencement Address

Pushing several political issues for which he is famous, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg both decried Congress for failing to pass gun control legislation and expounded upon political issues he cherishes in his commencement address to Kenyon College.

In a poignant reminder to the students of this Ohio college, Bloomberg spoke about an Ohio high school shooting last year by a 17-year-old that killed three and injured others.

"It was national news – for a day or two," Bloomberg said. "Then came mass shootings in Pittsburgh, Miami, Oakland, Tulsa, Seattle, Wilmington, Aurora, Milwaukee, Texas A&M, Minneapolis, Brookfield, Portland."

"After each one, those in Washington just shrugged," he said.

Peppering his platitudes with political positions, Bloomberg explained that at the graduates' 10-year reunion, same-sex marriage will be legal, a woman will have been elected president, climate change effects will be diminishing, and educational achievement gaps will be closed.

"So I leave you with the words I tell everyone: Don't screw it up!" he said.

PHOTO: First lady Michelle Obama speaks at the commencement ceremony for Bowie State University, Friday, May 17, 2013, at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.
Ann Heisenfelt/AP Photo
Michelle Obama

Bowie State University, Eastern Kentucky University Commencement Addresses

In what was widely regarded as one of the best of 2013, Michelle Obama's commencement address to the students of Bowie State University featured some tough love and a call to action.

Reiterating a point her husband made in his famous 2004 Democratic Convention speech, Michelle Obama explained that all too often, students, "instead of walking miles every day to school, they're sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they're fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper."

At the historically black university, her speech directly highlighted racial issues that continue to affect African American youth, including the high dropout rate and unreasonable prejudices against education.

"Please reject the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white," she said.

Michelle Obama Inspires Bowie State Students at Commencement

At another commencement address at Eastern Kentucky University, Obama encouraged consideration of different schools of thought.

"If you're a Democrat, spend some time talking to a Republican," Obama said. "And if you're a Republican, have a chat with a Democrat. We know what happens when we only talk to people who think like we do. We just get stuck in our ways."

Michelle Obama Inspires Graduating Students in Three States

PHOTO: Mitt Romney delivers the commencement address at Southern Virginia University.
Southern Virginia University
Mitt Romney

Southern Virginia University

Former Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney reentered the spotlight this spring when he gave the 2013 Southern Virginia University graduating class some classic—and unorthodox—commencement advice.

In a speech inspired by Luke's gospel when Jesus called his first disciples, Romney urged the graduates of the Mormon institution to pursue life in a selfless and brave manner.

"Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets," Romney told the mostly Mormon graduates.

Part of launching out included getting married and starting a family, which was a major focus of the speech.

"Getting married is one way to launch into the deep.... Combining your life with another person ... is tremendously challenging and enormously rewarding," he said.

Romney also advised the graduates to get married earlier in life in order to enjoy as much time as possible with their partners.

"Some people could get married but choose to take more time, they say, for themselves," he said. "Others plan to wait until they're well into their 30s or 40s before they think about getting married. They're going to miss so much of living, I'm afraid."

PHOTO: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is honored and also serves the commencement speech at Howard University on May 11, 2013 in Washington.
Earl Gibson III/WireImage/Getty Images
Bill Clinton

Howard University Commencement Address

Bill Clinton's address to the graduates of Howard University emphasized the similarities of humankind and expounded upon the relationship between his wife, former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Obama.

Explaining to the historically black university, he said, "We are all 99 and a half percent the same. The other thing is, before we get too arrogant about this, we all spend 99 and a half percent of our time thinking about the half of a percent of us that is different."

Clinton's address also shed some light on the much-publicized relationship between his wife and the president, who were engaged in a heated primary battle in 2008.

Recalling the election, he said, "They fought this huge campaign, tooth and nail, trench campaign down to the end."

Clinton continued by explaining that, after he won the nomination and presidency, Obama "was big enough to ask her to be secretary of state. She was big enough to take it. They trusted each other. And they both acknowledged that the differences in their positions were not that profound and there was a world out there that had to be healed."

Bill Clinton to Howard University Graduates: Use Your Talents to Change the World

PHOTO: Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the University of Pennsylvania's 257th Commencement, Monday, May 13, 2013, in Philadelphia.
Matt Rourke/AP Photo
Joe Biden

University of Pennsylvania Commencement Address

Vice President Joe Biden touched on a variety of hot button political issues, but struck a reassuring tone in his commencement address to the University of Pennsylvania, encouraging students that despite the cynics, America is still a good bet.

"It's never, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America," Biden said. "Don't listen to the cynics. They were wrong about my generation and they were wrong about yours."

Biden's speech discussed an assortment of political issues, including immigration, the economy, technological innovation, gay rights, climate change, women's rights, Vietnam, China's role in the world and the war in Iraq.

Oftentimes sounding more like a political rally than a commencement address, the speech was a mix of political platitudes, an explanation of the administration's successes and an encouragement of a generation that, Biden says, has "already begun to change things significantly, even before [they've] stepped off this field."

He continued, jokingly, "I have gained too much wisdom to offer any advice."

PHOTO: Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at Framingham State University's commencement ceremony on May 19, 2013.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/Getty Images
Elizabeth Warren

Framingham State University Commencement Address

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Framingham State University graduates to be realistic about the benefits of higher education but adaptable with their career plans at the May 2013 commencement ceremony.

"I have high hopes [for you] because even at this time of transition and in this hard economy, you've already done something really tough: You've stuck it out, you've pushed yourself, and you've graduated," she said.

Despite an already-storied career in the public sector, Warren warned that she never expected to get into politics. One of her first forays in politics came with a call from a former congressman to help build new bankruptcy laws, she explained.

"The funny thing is that I never planned to get into politics," said Warren. "If you do not believe me, try to find a political consultant who will tell you that the best way to get elected to a national office is becoming a professor or tangling with bank CEOs."

Before getting elected senator, she helped oversee the implementation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and helped establish the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

"Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to consider the unexpected," she said.

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