Giving a compelling commencement address is very, very difficult. I’ve sat in the audience on more than one occasion. I remember being very bored during most of the commencement addresses while the speaker droned on about something.
But the young people at Wesleyan had a chance to listen to Senator Barack Obama. Man, that must be something. Here’s a portion of Obama’s speech:
At a time when our ice caps are melting and our oceans are rising, we need you to help lead a green revolution. We still have time to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change if we get serious about investing in renewable sources of energy, and if we get a generation of volunteers to work on renewable energy projects, and teach folks about conservation, and help clean up polluted areas; if we send talented engineers and scientists abroad to help developing countries promote clean energy.
At a time when a child in Boston must compete with children in Beijing and Bangalore, we need an army of you to become teachers and principals in schools that this nation cannot afford to give up on. I will pay our educators what they deserve, and give them more support, but I will also ask more of them to be mentors to other teachers, and serve in high-need schools and high-need subject areas like math and science.
At a time when there are children in the city of New Orleans who still spend each night in a lonely trailer, we need more of you to take a weekend or a week off from work, and head down South, and help rebuild. If you can’t get the time, volunteer at the local homeless shelter or soup kitchen in your own community. Find an organization that’s fighting poverty, or a candidate who promotes policies you believe in, and find a way to help them.
At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again, Class of 2008.