Obama, First Sitting President to Speak at Rutgers, Tells Class of 2016: ‘It’s Your Turn to Shape Your Nation’s Destiny’

President Barack Obama
Photo: Roy Groething/Rutgers University

Addressing Rutgers University’s class of 2016 at the school’s 250th anniversary commencement ceremony on May 15, President Barack Obama told the graduating students that ignorance is not a virtue and urged them to have faith in democracy.

The first sitting president to speak at Rutgers told students and their families that the world is more interconnected than ever before and we need to work globally to solve problems, not build walls.

“You’ve got to be a citizen full time, all the time,” Obama told the more than 50,000 in attendance. “The biggest challenges we face cannot be solved in isolation. When overseas states start falling apart, they become breeding grounds for terrorists and ideologies and nihilism and despair that ultimately can reach our shores,” Obama said.

President Obama told students he decided to speak at Rutgers, the nation’s eighth oldest university, because it was the only university to launch a three-year campaign to try and convince him to come to New Jersey.

“Emails, letters, tweets, YouTube videos – I even got three notes from the grandmother of your student body president,” Obama said. “I have to say, that really sealed the deal.”

The president told students that progress takes time, personally and politically. He insisted that the system isn’t as rigged or broken as many people think. The key, he said, is to vote and defy statistics that have resulted in only one in five young people going to the polls and voting.

“If you vote and elect a majority that represents your views you will get what you want,” Obama told the students. “It is that simple. It is not that complicated.”


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