Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama's Commencement Speech at ASU

It's so disgusting on so many levels. Here are some lowlights...emphasis mine.
Now, ASU, I want to highlight -- I want to highlight two main problems with that old, tired, me-first approach. First, it distracts you from what's truly important, and may lead you to compromise your values and your principles and commitments. Think about it. It's in chasing titles and status -- in worrying about the next election rather than the national interest and the interests of those who you're supposed to represent -- that politicians so often lose their ways in Washington. (Applause.) They spend time thinking about polls, but not about principle. It was in pursuit of gaudy short-term profits, and the bonuses that came with them, that so many folks lost their way on Wall Street, engaging in extraordinary risks with other people's money. In contrast, the leaders we revere, the businesses and institutions that last -- they are not generally the result of a narrow pursuit of popularity or personal advancement, but of devotion to some bigger purpose -- the preservation of the Union or the determination to lift a country out of a depression; the creation of a quality product, a commitment to your customers, your workers, your shareholders and your community. A commitment to make sure that an institution like ASU is inclusive and diverse and giving opportunity to all. That's a hallmark of real success. (Applause.) That other stuff -- that other stuff, the trappings of success may be a byproduct of this larger mission, but it can't be the central thing. Just ask Bernie Madoff. That's the first problem with the old attitude. And let me be clear, when I say "young," I'm not just referring to the date of your birth certificate. I'm talking about an approach to life -- a quality of mind and quality of heart; a willingness to follow your passions, regardless of whether they lead to fortune and fame; a willingness to question conventional wisdom and rethink old dogmas; a lack of regard for all the traditional markers of status and prestige -- and a commitment instead to doing what's meaningful to you, what helps others, what makes a difference in this world. (Applause.) That's the great American story: young people just like you, following their passions, determined to meet the times on their own terms. They weren't doing it for the money. Their titles weren't fancy -- ex-slave, minister, student, citizen. A whole bunch of them didn't get honorary degrees. (Laughter and applause.) But they changed the course of history -- and so can you ASU, so can you Class of 2009. (Applause.) So can you. One student said it best when she spoke about her senior engineering project building medical devices for people with disabilities in a village in Africa. Her professor showed a video of the folks they'd been helping, and she said, "When we saw the people on the videos, we began to feel a connection to them. It made us want to be successful for them." Think about that: "It made us want to be successful for them." That's a great motto for all of us -- find somebody to be successful for. Raise their hopes. Rise to their needs. As you think about life after graduation, as you look into the mirror tonight after the partying is done -- (laughter and applause) -- that shouldn't get such a big cheer -- (laughter) -- you may look in the mirror tonight and you may see somebody who's not really sure what to do with their lives. That's what you may see, but a troubled child might look at you and see a mentor. A home-bound senior citizen might see a lifeline. The folks at your local homeless shelter might see a friend. None of them care how much money is in your bank account, or whether you're important at work, or whether you're famous around town -- they just know that you're somebody who cares, somebody who makes a difference in their lives. And if you ever forget that, just look to history. Thomas Paine was a failed corset maker, a failed teacher, and a failed tax collector before he made his mark on history with a little book called "Common Sense" that helped ignite a revolution. (Applause.) Julia Child didn't publish her first cookbook until she was almost 50. Colonel Sanders didn't open up his first Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was in his 60s. Winston Churchill was dismissed as little more than a has-been, who enjoyed scotch a little bit too much, before he took over as Prime Minister and saw Great Britain through its finest hour. No one thought a former football player stocking shelves at the local supermarket would return to the game he loved, become a Super Bowl MVP, and then come here to Arizona and lead your Cardinals to their first Super Bowl. (Applause.) Your body of work is never done.
If he is a genuine Churchill fan, then why did he return the gift England gave us after 9/11 (a bust of Churchill that was in the Oval Office) earlier this year?
But here's the thing, Class of 2009: It works the other way around too. Acts of sacrifice and decency without regard to what's in it for you -- that also creates ripple effects -- ones that lift up families and communities; that spread opportunity and boost our economy; that reach folks in the forgotten corners of the world who, in committed young people like you, see the true face of America: our strength, our goodness, our diversity, our enduring power, our ideals.
And there are people that actually argue with me that altruism is the problem in this country that is leading us to statism, and eventually, a dictatorship.


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