OBERLIN, Ohio — First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the commencement address at Oberlin College Monday morning.
The liberal arts school won a national contest, in which students made a video to show how they are promoting higher education in the community. Many of the students who were involved in the video said they were in shock about winning.
Michelle Obama was awarded an honorary doctorate in humanities before delivering her speech. She thanked those who served in the U.S. military on this Memorial Day.
“You might be tempted to recreate what you had here at Oberlin, to seek out like-minded individuals,” Obama said. She told the graduates not to get discouraged by gridlock and rhetoric. “You need to run to, not away from, the noise.”
Obama said people in this country are smart, open-minded and hungry for change.
“I should be here today. Oberlin is likely the only college in America I could have attended nearly two centuries ago,” Mrs. Obama said.
The First Lady spoke to the 695 graduates in the Class of 2015 as well as hundreds of spectators from the community for nearly a half hour, marking the first time a first lady has been a commencement speaker at the school.
“We believe in community service, and we believe in the community, so for her to recognize that means we’re doing something right,” said graduate Lauren Washington.
Mrs. Obama often cited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was an Oberlin College commencement speaker 50 years ago. She encouraged graduates to follow his lead by seeking change through civic engagement, action and compromise. Mrs. Obama told the ambitious group not to be discouraged by political polarization and gridlock in the “real world.”
“I want to suggest that if you truly wish to carry on the Oberlin legacy of service and social justice then you need to run to and not away from the noise,” she said. “I want to urge you to actively seek out the most contentious, polarized gridlocked places you can find, because so often throughout our history those have been the places where progress really happens.”
The formal commencement speaker who followed the First Lady was Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense.