First Lady Michelle Obama smiles as she is introduced by Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov before receiving an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio
Maura Zurick: First Lady Michelle Obama Urges Oberlin College Graduates To Make A Difference
First Lady Michelle Obama told nearly 700 Oberlin College graduates Monday to wake up and “play your part in our great American story.” Obama urged the class of 2015 to volunteer for campaigns or “better yet, run for office yourselves.” She encouraged the graduates to not shy away from the clamor and polarization of the real world and told them to face the revolutions of their time: climate change, economic inequality, human rights and criminal justice reform. “Today, I want to urge you to actively seek out the most contentious, polarized, gridlocked places you can find,” she said in her 25-minute remarks to graduates, family members and spectators in Tappan Square.
“Because so often, throughout our history, those have been the places where progress really happens –- the places where minds are changed, lives transformed, where our great American story unfolds.” Zoe Madonna, an East Asian studies graduate, called the first lady brilliant. “This is going to be a story that I can tell 50 years from now about the time the first lady spoke at my graduation, and I really enjoyed that it wasn’t a pat-yourself-on-the-back speech,” Madonna said. “Usually when dignitaries come, they keep their real selves, real opinions quiet, but you could hear what she really thought, what she really wants for us shining through in her speech.”
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe during an official arrival ceremony at the South Lawn of the White House
President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office
First Lady Michelle Obama and Mrs. Akie Abe during a Japanese immersion class at Great Falls Elementary School in Great Falls, Virginia. The Japanese immersion is part of Virginia’s Fairfax County Public School’s World Languages Immersion Program, where elementary students learn math, science, and health through a foreign language
President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participate in a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe after they arrived at the north portico of the White House for a State Dinner
First Lady Michelle Obama is in a Tadashi Shoji dress
President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participate in a toast with sake during a state dinner
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. To Vicki, Ted, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, Ambassador Smith, members of the Kennedy family — thank you so much for inviting me to speak today. Your Eminence, Cardinal O’Malley; Vice President Biden; Governor Baker; Mayor Walsh; members of Congress, past and present; and pretty much every elected official in Massachusetts — (laughter) — it is an honor to mark this occasion with you.
Boston, know that Michelle and I have joined our prayers with yours these past few days for a hero — former Army Ranger and Boston Police Officer John Moynihan, who was shot in the line of duty on Friday night. (Applause.) I mention him because, last year, at the White House, the Vice President and I had the chance to honor Officer Moynihan as one of America’s “Top Cops” for his bravery in the line of duty, for risking his life to save a fellow officer. And thanks to the heroes at Boston Medical Center, I’m told Officer Moynihan is awake, and talking, and we wish him a full and speedy recovery. (Applause.)
I also want to single out someone who very much wanted to be here, just as he was every day for nearly 25 years as he represented this commonwealth alongside Ted in the Senate — and that’s Secretary of State John Kerry. (Applause.) As many of you know, John is in Europe with our allies and partners, leading the negotiations with Iran and the world community, and standing up for a principle that Ted and his brother, President Kennedy, believed in so strongly: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” (Applause.)
And, finally, in his first years in the Senate, Ted dispatched a young aide to assemble a team of talent without rival. The sell was simple: Come and help Ted Kennedy make history. So I want to give a special shout-out to his extraordinarily loyal staff — (applause) — 50 years later a family more than one thousand strong. This is your day, as well. We’re proud of you. (Applause.) Of course, many of you now work with me. (Laughter.) So enjoy today, because we got to get back to work. (Laughter.)
Distinguished guests, fellow citizens — in 1958, Ted Kennedy was a young man working to reelect his brother, Jack, to the United States Senate. On election night, the two toasted one another: “Here’s to 1960, Mr. President,” Ted said, “If you can make it.” With his quick Irish wit, Jack returned the toast: “Here’s to 1962, Senator Kennedy, if you can make it.” (Laughter.) They both made it. And today, they’re together again in eternal rest at Arlington.
But their legacies are as alive as ever together right here in Boston. The John F. Kennedy Library next door is a symbol of our American idealism; the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate as a living example of the hard, frustrating, never-ending, but critical work required to make that idealism real.
What more fitting tribute, what better testament to the life of Ted Kennedy, than this place that he left for a new generation of Americans — a monument not to himself but to what we, the people, have the power to do together.
Any of us who have had the privilege to serve in the Senate know that it’s impossible not to share Ted’s awe for the history swirling around you — an awe instilled in him by his brother, Jack. Ted waited more than a year to deliver his first speech on the Senate floor. That’s no longer the custom. (Laughter.) It’s good to see Trent and Tom Daschle here, because they remember what customs were like back then. (Laughter.)
And Ted gave a speech only because he felt there was a topic — the Civil Rights Act — that demanded it. Nevertheless, he spoke with humility, aware, as he put it, that “a freshman Senator should be seen, not heard; should learn, and not teach.”
Some of us, I admit, have not always heeded that lesson. (Laughter.) But fortunately, we had Ted to show us the ropes anyway. And no one made the Senate come alive like Ted Kennedy. It was one of the great pleasures of my life to hear Ted Kennedy deliver one of his stem winders on the Floor. Rarely was he more animated than when he’d lead you through the living museums that were his offices. He could — and he would — tell you everything that there was to know about all of it. (Laughter.)
And then there were more somber moments. I still remember the first time I pulled open the drawer of my desk. Each senator is assigned a desk, and there’s a tradition of carving the names of those who had used it before. And those names in my desk included Taft and Baker, Simon, Wellstone, and Robert F. Kennedy.
The Senate was a place where you instinctively pulled yourself up a little bit straighter; where you tried to act a little bit better. “Being a senator changes a person,” Ted wrote in his memoirs. As Vicki said, it may take a year, or two years, or three years, but it always happens; it fills you with a heightened sense of purpose.
That’s the magic of the Senate. That’s the essence of what it can be. And who but Ted Kennedy, and his family, would create a full-scale replica of the Senate chamber, and open it to everyone?
We live in a time of such great cynicism about all our institutions. And we are cynical about government and about Washington, most of all. It’s hard for our children to see, in the noisy and too often trivial pursuits of today’s politics, the possibilities of our democracy — our capacity, together, to do big things.
And this place can help change that. It can help light the fire of imagination, plant the seed of noble ambition in the minds of future generations. Imagine a gaggle of school kids clutching tablets, turning classrooms into cloakrooms and hallways into hearing rooms, assigned an issue of the day and the responsibility to solve it.
Imagine their moral universe expanding as they hear about the momentous battles waged in that chamber and how they echo throughout today’s society. Great questions of war and peace, the tangled bargains between North and South, federal and state; the original sins of slavery and prejudice; and the unfinished battles for civil rights and opportunity and equality.
Imagine the shift in their sense of what’s possible. The first time they see a video of senators who look like they do — men and women, blacks and whites, Latinos, Asian-Americans; those born to great wealth but also those born of incredibly modest means.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel embrace during a farewell ceremony for Hagel at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. Hagel is stepping down once his replacement, Ashton Carter, has been confirmed.
"From sergeant to secretary, you’ve always been guided by one interest—what you believe is best for America." —President Obama on Hagel
President Barack Obama stands with Helen Loring Ensign, 85, from Palm Desert, Calif., after awarding the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing for conspicuous gallantry during a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at a ceremony to present the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing for conspicuous gallantry in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. First Lieutenant Cushing received the Medal of Honor for his actions during combat operations in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863
President Barack Obama stands with Helen Loring Ensign, 85, from Palm Desert, Calif., after awarding the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing for conspicuous gallantry during a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. With them, from left to right, are Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., Army Secretary John McHugh and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald.
U.S. Army First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing is pictured in a military academy graduation photograph dated 1861, obtained on October 28, 2014. President Barack Obama posthumously awarded the Civil War artillery officer the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. award for bravery, 151 years after Cushing was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.
President Barack Obama stands with Helen Loring Ensign, as the citation for her relative, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing is read
Margaret Zerwekh of Delafield, Wis. raises her hand as she is acknowledged by President Barack Obama during a ceremony awarding the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing for conspicuous gallantry. President Obama acknowledged the work of Zerwekh, a 94-year-old amateur historian from Cushing’s hometown who painstakingly researched his story and lobbied Wisconsin’s congressional delegation for decades
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during a special daytime workshop for high school students from military communities in the greater Washington area
Willie Nelson, right, and fellow panelist, songwriter Ted Peterson, left, hip hop recording artist Common, second from right, listen as Army Sgt. Christiana Ball responds to a question
President Barack Obama is presented a plaque by philanthropist Lois Pope and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, during the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial dedication ceremony in Washington. President Obama paid tribute to disabled U.S. veterans on Sunday, pointing to the dedication of a new memorial honoring those severely injured in war as a symbol of the nation’s perseverance and character.