Obama Addresses Class of 2011
In the opening of his address to Miami Dade College’s Class of 2011, President Barack Obama touched on a central tenet of the College’s mission.
“Opportunity changes everything,” said Obama. “America will only be as strong in this new century as the opportunities that we provide you – the opportunities that we provide to all our young people.”
Obama delivered the keynote address to students at the recent commencement exercises for North Campus and MDC West, one of five ceremonies at which more than 14,000 students received associate and bachelor’s degrees.
The U.S. President praised Miami Dade College for being one of the top colleges in the nation, with one of the largest and most diverse student bodies. Lauding MDC for its greater than 90-percent job-placement rate in graduates’ fields of study, Obama called community colleges “critical pathways to the middle class” that arm students for success in the 21st century.
“That’s why I’ve made community colleges a centerpiece of my education agenda, along with helping more students afford college,” Obama explained. “I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve done in community colleges. And your accomplishment today is vital to America reclaiming the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.”
‘No Other Nation’
Continuing on the theme of opportunity, Obama told a story about a stack of application letters that his father had written to colleges and universities around the world, a stack of letters that was given to the President by his step-grandmother in Kenya after his father’s death, written in the “unmistakably hopeful voice of somebody who is just desperate for a chance – just desperate to live his unlikely dream.”
Obama drew ties between his own success and the act of an admissions officer at the University of Hawaii, who gave the President’s young father an opportunity to pursue his dream – an opportunity MDC has given to more than 2 million students and will continue to give through the American Dream Scholarship. “And because that person gave a young man a chance,” said Obama, his own father “met a young woman from Kansas; they had a son in the land where all things are possible … every single day I walk into the Oval Office, and for all the days of my life, I will always remember that in no other nation on Earth could my story be possible, could your stories be possible.”
Preserving American Dream
In closing his commencement address, the President charged graduates with safeguarding the American Dream. “So what I ask of you, graduates, as you walk out of here today is this: Pursue success. Do not falter. When you make it, pull somebody else up. Preserve our dream. Remember your life is richer when people around you have a shot at opportunity as well. Strive to widen that circle of possibility; strive to forge that big, generous, optimistic vision of America that we inherited; strive to carry that dream forward to future generations.”
Other keynote speakers for the 2011 commencement exercises were Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy; Kathleen Shanahan, member of the State Board of Education; Wifredo “Willy” Ferrer, Esq., the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; and César Conde, president of Univision Networks. Like Obama, Conde and Ferrer talked about the American Dream.
“Dream big in that anything is possible in this country with a good education,” said Conde. “You are limited only by your imagination and your determination.”
“Miami Dade College is the American Dream,” said Ferrer. “You are the American Dream. Our challenge is to help make that dream possible for others through our commitment to making our society fairer and more equal, where every American can make full use of his or her potential, and no segment of society is left out.”
— Staff Report