Obama Tells OSU Grads: 'America Needs Full Time Citizens'

The president discusses the importance of students participating in America's democracy.
26:34 | 05/05/13

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Transcript for Obama Tells OSU Grads: 'America Needs Full Time Citizens'
Without further delay please join me in welcoming the charismatic. The visionary entirely -- to the GQ -- of the United States of America. Hello. But -- -- -- Well thank you so much survey please be seated thank -- doctor game. For the wonderful introduction I suspect. The good -- may have edited out some other word that we're used to describe him. I appreciate that. But I'm gonna let Michelle know. All of the good comments. To the board of trustees'. Congress won't be the mayor Coleman. All of you who make up the -- Ohio state university for allowing me to join you. It is credible on top and most of all congratulations class of 23 take. And of course congratulations to all the parents. Family and friends and faculty here in the -- this is -- day as well. I've been told ask everybody -- please be careful with the -- Coach -- has big plans for this ball. -- very much appreciate the president's and introduction. I will not be singing today. -- -- -- It is true that. -- did speak about certain university up north few years ago. Thought. To be fair you didn't let president -- speaker -- and -- played football. For Michigan. -- -- Everybody can get some redemption. In my defense this is my fifth visit. Two campus in the past years old. One time I stopped -- sloppy as to grab some lunch. Have you. -- -- -- -- Notes at Sunday. I'm coming off foreign trip. Anyway at -- -- -- and that if you were still eating breakfast. At 1130. On -- Tuesday. So -- the class Detroit thirteen I'll offer my first piece of advice. Enjoy it while you can. Soon you'll not get to wake up and have breakfast at 1130 on Tuesday. And once you have children and it gets even earlier. By. Up. Last won -- thirteen. Your path to this moment. As wandered through years. Breathtaking change it. You were born as freedom forced its way through a wall in Berlin. Tore down an iron curtain across Europe. You -- educated. In an era of instant information that put the world's accumulated knowledge at your fingertips. And -- came of age as terror touched our shores. And historic recession spread across the nation. And a new generation signed up to go to war. So you've been test cut and you've been tempered. By events that your parents and I never imagined we'd see when. We -- where you -- And yet despite all this. Or perhaps because of yours has become a generation possessed. Would that most Americans about US. The people who love their country can change it for the -- For all the turmoil for all the times. You've been let down -- frustrated at the hands the you've been dealt. What I have seen what we have witnessed from your generation. Is that perennial. Quintessentially American value. Of optimism. Altruism. Empathy tolerance. A sense of commuted. A sense of service. All of which makes me optimistic for our future. Consider that today fifteen. ROTC cadets -- graduating class will become commissioned officers in the army navy airforce and Marines. A 130 you have your fellow graduates have already served some in combat -- on multiple deployments. Of the 98 veterans earning bachelor's degrees today. Twenty -- graduated -- And at least one -- serving his fellow veterans when he came home by starting up a campus organization call bet for bet. And as your commander in chief I could not be prouder of all of them. Consider their. Graduates of this university served their country through the peaceful. And educate our children through established programs like Teach for America. Startups like blue and often earning little pay for making the biggest impact. -- majority -- start -- companies bureau. And I suspect those of you who pursue more education or climb the corporate ladder or enter the arts or science or journalism. You will still choose. A -- that you care about your life you'll fight like Iraq. To realize your vision. And there's word for this. It citizenship. We don't always talk about this -- much these states. Citizenship. Let -- celebrated. Sometimes we see it as a virtue from. Another time a distant past. One -- slipping away from a society that celebrates individual ambition above above all else. A society awash -- instant technology that empowers us to leverage our skills and talents like never before but. Just as easily allows us to retreat from the world. In the result is that we sometimes forget. The larger bonds we share as one American family. But it still out there. All the time every -- Especially when we need -- most. Let's look at the past year. When hurricane struck -- -- city. And the factory exploded in a small town and taxes. We saw citizenship. When bombs went off in Boston when a malevolent -- of gunfire visited the movie theater. A temple. An Ohio high school. -- first grade classroom in Connecticut. We saw citizenship. In the aftermath. -- darkest tragedy we have to fight the American spirit and it's -- it's. We've seen the petty divisions of color and class and creed. Replaced by a united church. To help -- up. We've seen courage. And compassion. A sense of civic duty and a recognition. We are not a collection of strangers. We are bound to one another by a set of ideals and laws and commitments. And a deep devotion to this country that we law. And that's what citizenship it's. The heart of our founding. As Americans we are blessed with god given talents and -- rights. But when those rights come responsibilities to ourselves and to one another. In the future generations. Now if -- being honest with ourselves. As you've studied and worked and -- to become good citizens. The fact is that all too often the institutions that. -- -- structure to our society have at times betrayed your trust. In the run up to the financial crisis. Too many on Wall Street forgot that there -- obligations don't end it. We live. What's happening with their shares. In entertainment and in the media and ratings and shock value often trump. -- and storytelling. In Washington well this is a joyous occasion so. Let me put it charitably. I think it's fair to say our democracy isn't working as well as we know what -- It could do better. And so those of us fortunate enough to serve in these institutions. -- -- to you to do better every single that. And I've been thinking a lot lately about how we can keep this idea of citizenship. In its fullest sense alive at the national level not just on Election Day not just in times of tragedy but it. All the days in between. And perhaps because I spent a lot of time in Washington. I had obsessed with this issue because it's that sense. Of citizenship is so sorely needed that. And I think of what your generations -- Compassion and energy and a sense of selflessness. Might mean for -- democracy that. The months that more quickly. To keep up with the speed of technological and demographic and wrenching economic change. I think about how we might perpetuate this notion of citizenship in a way that. Another politician from my home state of Illinois Adlai Stevenson once described patriotism. Not as short frenzied outbursts of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. That's what patriotism that's what citizenship it's. -- I don't pretend to have all the answers I'm not an offer some grand theory on a beautiful day like this -- all have celebrating to do. -- aggregate partisan either because that's not what citizenship is about. In fact I'm asking the same thing -- view the President Bush did when he spoke -- this commencement 2002. America needs more than taxpayers spectators and occasional voters. He said America needs full time citizens. And as graduates from a university. As graduates from a university whose motto is education for citizenship. And all of you get that. This is what you sign up for. It's what your country expects of -- So briefly I'll ask. For two things from the class of 2013. To participate. And to persevere. After all that. Your democracy does not function without your active participation. At a bare minimum that means voting. Eagerly and often not having somebody drag you to it. At 1130 when you're having breakfast. It means knowing that. He's been elected to make decisions on your behalf and what they believe it. And whether or not they deliver on what they said they would. And if they don't represent you the way you want or conduct themselves what you expected that put special interest above your own. You've got to let them know that's not okay. And if they let you down often enough there's a built in day in November where you can really let them know it's not okay. -- participation. Your civic duty is more than just vote. You don't have to run for office yourself but I hope many of you do it at all levels because our democracy needs. And I promise you it will give you a tough skin. I know a little bit about this. Present Wilson once said if you want to make enemies. Try to change something. And that's precisely. What the founders left -- the power. Each of us to adapt to changing times. They left of the keys to a system of self government. The -- to do big things an important things together that we could not possibly to a -- To stretch railroads electricity and a highway system across the sprawling company. To educate our people. With a system of public schools and land grant colleges including the Ohio State University. To care for the sick and the vulnerable and provide a basic level protection. From falling in abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on earth. To conquer fascism and disease. To visit the -- and bars. To gradually secure our god given rights for all of our citizens regardless of who they are -- what they look like or what they love. We the people. Chose to do these things to get because we know this country cannot accomplish great things. If we -- nothing greater than our own individual ambition. Unfortunately you've grown up. Hearing voices that incessantly. -- of government as nothing more than -- separate sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. -- police -- most boys also do their best to gum up the works. No -- -- the tyrannies always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these -- Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment. In self role as somehow just a sham. -- which we can't be trusted. We have never been a people who -- all of our faith in government to solve our problems. We -- want to but we don't think the government is the source of all our problems either. Because we understand that this democracy is ours and its citizens we understand that it's not about what America. Can do for us it's about what can be done by us together. Through the heart and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self government and class -- when he thirteen you have to be involved -- that profit. The founders trusted us with this -- according. We should trust ourselves with a two. Because -- we don't. When we turn away and get discouraged and cynical and abdicated that authority we grant park silent and -- To someone who will gladly claim. That's how we end up -- lobbyists who set the agenda. And policies detached from what middle class families face every day. The well connected who publicly demand that Washington stay out of the business and then -- governments feared for special treatment that you don't get. -- tell us small minority of lawmakers get. Cover to defeat something the vast majority of their constituents want. That's our political system gets consumed by small things. When we are people called the do great things. Like to rebuild -- middle class and reverse the rise of inequality and repair the deteriorating climate that threatens everything. We plant -- for our kids -- our grandkids. Class of two point thirteen only you could ultimately break that cycle. Only you can make sure the democracy you -- -- Is as good as we know what can be but it requires your dedicated and informed and engaged citizenship. And met citizenship is a harder higher road to take but it leads to a better place but it's how we built this cut. Together. It's the question the president Kennedy posed to the nation at his inauguration. It's the dream that Doctor King -- boat. It does not promise easy success or immediate progress but it has led to success. And it has led to progress. It has to continue would you. Which brings me to the second thing I ask of all of -- I ask. -- -- -- -- -- Would you start a business or run for office or devote yourself to alleviating poverty or hunger. Please remember that nothing worth doing happens overnight. A British and better name Dyson went through more than 5000 prototypes before getting that. First really fancy vacuum cleaner just right. We remember Michael Jordan six championships. We don't remember his nearly. 151000. Missed shots. As for me I lost my first race for congress and look at me now. On the battery -- -- of the Ohio State University. The point is if you are living your life to the pull us out. You will fail. You'll stumble. You'll screw up you won't fall down. But it will make you stronger. You'll get a -- the next. -- the time after that for the time after that and that is not only true for your personal pursuits. But it's also true for the broader causes that you believe -- as well. So you can't give up your passion if things don't work right away. You can't lose heart or -- Senecal. If there twists and turns on your -- The cynics may be allowed -- boards. But I promise you they will accomplish the least. It's it's those folks who stay at it. Those who do the long hard committed work of change that gradually push this country in the right direction and make. The most lasting depths. So whatever you feel -- creeping cynicism whatever you hear those voices saying you can't do what you can't make a difference. Whenever somebody tells you to set your sights lower. The trajectory of this. Great nation should give you -- What generations. Have done before you should give you vote. Because it was young people. Just like you. Who marched and mobilized and stood up and said in to secure women's rights and voting rights and workers' rights. And gay rights often at incredible odds often. At great danger. Often over the course of years sometimes over the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime and they never got acknowledge fort. But they made a difference. And even if their rights were already secured. There were those who fought to secure. Those same rights and opportunities for others. And that should give you some -- We're we're going should give you hope. Because while things are still hard for a lot of people you have every reason to believe that your future is bright. You're graduating into an economy -- a job market. That is steadily -- Once dying American auto industry is on pace -- strongest performance in twenty years something that. Means everything to many communities in Ohio and across the midwest. Huge strides in domestic energy driven in part by research at universities like this one. Have a -- track to secure our own energy future. Incredible advances in information and technology spurred largely by the risk takers of your generation. Had the potential to change the way we do almost everything. There is not another country on earth that would not gladly. Change places with the united states of -- -- And that will be true. For your generation just as was true for previous generations. So you've got a lot -- to look forward to but if there's one certainty about the -- and yet. If that things will be uncertain. Change will be a constant. Just -- it has been throughout our history. And yes we still face many important challenges. Some will require technological breakthroughs are new policy -- but more than anything. What we will need is political with. -- harness the ingenuity of your generation. And encourage and inspire the hard work of dedicated citizens. To repair the middle class. To give more families a fair shake. To reject a country in which only a lucky few prosper because that's antithetical to our ideals and our democracy. All of this is gonna happen if you weren't vault because it takes dogged determination. The dogged determination of our citizens. To educate more children at a younger age and to reform our high schools for a -- time. And to give more young people the chance to earn the kind of education. That you did at the Ohio State University had to make it more portable so that. Young people don't leave with a mountain of debt that will take the care and concern of citizens like you. To build better roads and airports and faster and -- that. And to advance the kinds of -- with search and technology it's always kept America ahead of everybody else that will take the grit and ordered to. Its citizens. To confront the threat of climate change before it's too -- that requires that. And idealism in the initiative citizens. To protect more markets from the horrors of gun violence that requires the unwavering passion -- -- resolve of citizens. It will require you. Fifty 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 -- But we can always be greater. We could always aspire to something more. It doesn't depend on who you elect office depends on US citizens how big. You want us to be how badly that you want to see these changes for the better. Look at all that America's already accomplished look how big we've been. I dare you class of 23 team to do -- I dare you. The dream but. -- from what I've seen your generation. I'm confident that you will. And so I wish -- courage and compassion. And all the strength that you'll need or that tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime thank you god bless and god bless these United States of America.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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