In case you’re living under a rock/booth of 1020 and haven’t heard, Obama stopped by South Lawn yesterday to give Barnard’s 2012 Commencement Speech. Decently Dynamic Duo Ella Quittner and Brian Wagner stopped by and made a highlight reel. In their heads.
“Fight for a seat at the head of the table.”
That’s one of three pieces of advice President Barack Obama gave today at the 2012 Barnard College Commencement ceremony under a big white tent on South Lawn. He was directly addressing the class of graduating seniors, but the irony wasn’t lost on the number of audience members who’d as a matter of fact had to fight tooth and nail for a coveted seat at that very ceremony.
We’d been expecting Obama since his decision to deliver the Barnard Commencement Address was announced back in early March. Reactions to that announcement were mixed. Some felt slighted, and weren’t shy about it. Others simply wanted answers, asking why he—a 1983 graduate of Columbia College—had chosen to give a speech across the street from his own alma mater. Others still, students in the School of General Studies, felt the ripple effects of his decision weeks later.
While the PrezOb didn’t exactly provide a frank response to the hubbub caused by his visit, he did begin his speech with a bit of a tongue-in-cheek one-line: “I’ll begin by telling a hard truth: I’m a Columbia College graduate.”
Obama then transitioned to speaking briefly about the country’s economic recession, stopping off first over in “the bygone days” of 1983 to reference Sally Ride, the moonwalk, and what his own graduating class experienced as a “time of change… a time of uncertainty.” He spoke mostly to the Barnard graduates about what he feels is a leading role of women in modern society.
Other highlights included pithy maxims like, “Keep your friends close, and your Barnard Commencement speakers even closer,” and “You can be stylish and powerful too—that’s Michelle’s advice.” Advice items two and three, following Obama’s seat-at-the-table-metaphor, were to remain aware of the power of one’s example, and to persevere. He spoke of “strong, remarkable women,” from his own mother, wife, and daughters, to Congresswomen Barbara Mikulski and Olympia Snowe.
You can watch his entire speech here, with a transcript after the jump: