The third sitting president to address a U-M graduating class, President Barack Obama laid out three key points for the Class of 2010 to keep in mind: government’s helpful role in people’s lives, greater civility in the public discourse, and active participation in the mechanisms of democracy.
He said the last ingredient was perhaps the most basic, yet also the one easily threatened by today’s “poisonous political climate.”
“The point is, when we don’t pay close attention to the decisions made by our leaders; when we fail to educate ourselves about the major issues of the day; when we choose not to make our voices and opinions heard, that’s when democracy breaks down. That’s when power is abused. That’s when the most extreme voices in our society fill the void that we leave,” he declared.
Some 85,000 people filled Michigan Stadium to hear Obama’s address on a day that began with heavy thunderstorms that threatened the ceremony. But skies cleared for graduates and their families, as well as the president, who arrived by Marine One. In addition to addressing graduates, Obama commissioned Army and Navy officers graduating from U-M’s ROTC programs.