COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — 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 a poorly 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 sunbaked 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.”
The visit to Ohio State — the first of three commencement addresses Obama will give this season — was a homecoming of sorts for Obama, who has visited the campus five times over little more than a year, starting with his first official campaign rally here last May. He made many more stops elsewhere in Ohio as he and Republican Mitt Romney dueled for the Midwestern state which was pivotal to Obama’s victories in both 2008 and 2012.
This year’s class also has some standout stars, like Vernon Cheeks, 17, who was accepted to 14 schools, according to CBS Chicago. “It taught me how to be resilient. It also taught me how to be accountable for my own actions,” he told the station of his experience in the standout high school program.
In 2010, the school sent all 107 graduating seniors directly into college or university programs for the first time.
“No other public [school] in the country has done this,” Urban Prep Academy Founder Tim King said at the time. Continuing that success in 2011 and 2012 makes the school’s performance even more remarkable.