COLUMBUS, Ohio – A year to the day after kicking off his victorious re-election campaign on this college campus, President Barack Obama returned to Ohio State University and told graduates that only through vigorous participation in their democracy can they right an ill-functioning government and break through relentless cynicism about the nation’s future.
“I dare you, Class of 2013, to do better. I dare you to dream bigger,” Obama said.
In a sun-baked stadium filled with more than 57,000 students, friends and relatives, Obama lamented an American political system that gets consumed by “small things” and works for the benefit of society’s elite. He called graduates to duty to “accomplish great things,” like rebuilding a still-feeble economy and fighting poverty and climate change.
“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,” Obama told more than 10,000 cap-and-gown-clad graduates gathered for the rite of passage. “But it requires your dedicated, informed and engaged citizenship.”
There was little direct mention of party politics Sunday, but ample allusion to the partisan battles that cramped many of Obama’s legislative efforts in his first term and have continued unabated into his second.
In an apparent reference to his failed push on gun control, he bemoaned that a small minority in Congress find excuses to oppose things that most Americans support.
“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 it can,” Obama said.
Obama’s other two commencement speeches this season will be later in May at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and at Morehouse College, an all-male school in Atlanta.