Gates open to family and guests as early as 6:30 a.m. at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium for the graduating class of University of California, Irvine on June 14, 2014. Security is tight, but as soon as the guests are seated, the stadium is filled to the brim with an eager crowd waiting for the guest of honor to speak.
President Barack Obama arrived in Southern California just hours before making his appearance at the commencement.
“I’m here today because you asked,” Obama said, referring to the 10,000 postcards he received at the White House. Obama mentioned one of the postcard writers asking him to speak at the commencement because the university is “super underrated,” to which he quipped, “I think this generation of young people is super underrated.”
Speaking to a class of millennials, which are one of the most educated, diverse, technologically savvy, and optimistic, the president made note of those qualities and took the opportunity to focus on an issue he strongly believes in: the environment. He used the topic of environmental threats to stir them into action, to be the game changers of this world.
“Can you imagine a more worthy goal, a more worthy legacy, than protecting the world we leave to our children?” he asked.
He then encouraged the students to use their degrees, skills and resources to tackle environmental issues and help leave that legacy, pointing out a country that seizes this opportunity will lead the way and allow others to follow.
Aware that the new graduates will be facing a difficult economy and student debt, Obama challenged them that as a generation getting “shortchanged by inaction,” they cannot give up when they run up against problems and issues that stymie efforts, and offered them a spate of inspirational phrases:
“Progress is possible. Perseverance is critical.”
“Believe in yourself.”
“Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice.”
After speaking for about a half hour to an energetic crowd, the president concluded his address: “I cannot wait to see what 22-year-olds will do to shape the future. Congrats, class of 2014.”
Approximately 40,000 people attended the ceremony. Obama’s address fell on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s dedicating an undeveloped land that would later become UC Irvine, now fertile ground for advances in medicine, technology, art, education and science.