First lady Michelle Obama embraces honorary degree recipient and former Bowie State University President Freeman Hrabowski during the university’s graduation ceremony at the Comcast Center on the campus of the University of Maryland, May 17
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Explaining that it will be their response to adversity, their resilience and determination that defines them, the First Lady told the graduates, “If you’re willing to dig deep, if you’re willing to pick yourself up when you fall, if you’re willing to work and work until your weaknesses become your strengths, you’ll develop a set of skills that you can mold and apply to any situation you encounter, any job you might have, any crisis you may confront.”
“If you’re a Democrat, spend some time talking to a Republican,” Mrs. Obama told about 600 education, business and technology graduates at the third and final commencement ceremony of the day. “And if you’re a Republican, have a chat with a Democrat. Maybe you’ll find some common ground, maybe you won’t.”
The first lady suggested that they visit senior centers to benefit from the experiences of people with plenty of “life experience under their belts.” She also pointed them to religious congregations different than their own, saying they might hear something in a sermon “that stays with you.” And she predicted they would learn something if they reached out “with an open mind and an open heart.”
“And goodness knows, we need more of that,” she said. “Because we know what happens when we only talk to people who think like we do. We just get stuck in our ways.”
“When you’ve worked hard and done well, as I’ve said, the least you can do is reach back and give a hand to somebody else who can use that help,” Obama told a cheering crowd of 6,200 who filled EKU’s Alumni Coliseum in the last of three commencement ceremonies.
In a 20-minute speech that touched on struggles with affordable education and post-college employment, she asked graduating seniors to contemplate the resilience of student veterans who are one day wearing a rucksack and carrying a firearm and the next day wearing a backpack and carrying a textbook.
“If you are willing to dig deep, if you are willing to pick yourself up when you fall, if you are willing to work and work until your weaknesses become your strengths, then you will develop the type of skills that you can mold and apply to any situation you might encounter,” she said.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Hello, Buckeyes! O-H!
THE PRESIDENT: O-H!
THE PRESIDENT: O-H!
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much. Everybody, please be seated. Thank you, Dr. Gee, for the wonderful introduction. I suspect the good President may have edited out some other words that were used to describe me. (Laughter.) I appreciate that. But I’m going to let Michelle know of all the good comments.
To the Board of Trustees; Congresswoman Beatty; Mayor Coleman; and all of you who make up The Ohio State University for allowing me to join you — it is an incredible honor.
And most of all, congratulations, Class of 2013! (Applause.) And of course, congratulations to all the parents, and family, and friends and faculty here in the Horseshoe — this is your day as well. (Applause.) I’ve been told to ask everybody, though, please be careful with the turf. Coach Meyer has big plans for this fall. (Laughter.)
I very much appreciate the President’s introduction. I will not be singing today. (Laughter.)