Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Obama meets with the Sun Devil and lays it on thick

Sun Devil Stadium
Tempe, Arizona
May 13, 2009
7:59 P.M. MST

"I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life; I heartily concur; I come to affirm that one's title, even a title like President of the United States, says very little about how well one's life has been led -- that no matter how much you've done, or how successful you've been, there's always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve.

Now, some graduating classes have marched into this stadium in easy times -- times of peace and stability when we call on our graduates simply to keep things going, and don't screw it up.

Now, in the face of these challenges, it may be tempting to fall back on the formulas for success that have been pedaled so frequently in recent years. It goes something like this: You're taught to chase after all the usual brass rings; you try to be on this "who's who" list or that top 100 list; you chase after the big money and you figure out how big your corner office is; you worry about whether you have a fancy enough title or a fancy enough car. That's the message that's sent each and every day, or has been in our culture for far too long -- that through material possessions, through a ruthless competition pursued only on your own behalf -- that’s how you will measure success.

Now, ASU, I want to highlight -- I want to highlight two main problems with that old, tired, me-first approach. First, it distracts you from what's truly important, and may lead you to compromise your values and your principles and commitments. Think about it. It's in chasing titles and status -- in worrying about the next election rather than the national interest and the interests of those who you're supposed to represent -- that politicians so often lose their ways in Washington. They spend time thinking about polls, but not about principle.

But the second problem with the old approach to success is that a relentless focus on the outward markers of success can lead to complacency. It can make you lazy. We too often let the external, the material things, serve as indicators that we're doing well, even though something inside us tells us that we're not doing our best; that we're avoiding that which is hard, but also necessary; that we're shrinking from, rather than rising to, the challenges of the age. And the thing is, in this new, hyper-competitive age, none of us -- none of us -- can afford to be complacent.

Being a parent is not just a matter of paying the bills, doing the bare minimum -- it's not bringing a child into the world that matters, but the acts of love and sacrifice it takes to raise and educate that child and give them opportunity. It can happen to Presidents, as well.

And that's not just true for individuals -- it's also true for this nation. In recent years, in many ways, we've become enamored with our own past success -- lulled into complacency by the glitter of our own achievements.

We've become accustomed to the title of "military super-power," forgetting the qualities that got us there -- not just the power of our weapons, but the discipline and valor and the code of conduct of our men and women in uniform. The Marshall Plan, and the Peace Corps, and all those initiatives that show our commitment to working with other nations to pursue the ideals of opportunity and equality and freedom that have made us who we are. That's what made us a super power.

All the while, the rest of the world has grown hungrier, more restless -- in constant motion to build and to discover -- not content with where they are right now, determined to strive for more. They're coming. So graduates, it's now abundantly clear that we need to start doing things a little bit different.

As a nation, we'll need a fundamental change of perspective and attitude. It's clear that we need to build a new foundation -- a stronger foundation -- for our economy and our prosperity, rethinking how we grow our economy, how we use energy, how we educate our children, how we care for our sick, how we treat our environment.

Many of our current challenges are unprecedented. There are no standard remedies, no go-to fixes this time around.

I'm talking about an approach to life -- a quality of mind and quality of heart; a willingness to follow your passions, regardless of whether they lead to fortune and fame; a willingness to question conventional wisdom and rethink old dogmas; a lack of regard for all the traditional markers of status and prestige -- and a commitment instead to doing what's meaningful to you, what helps others, what makes a difference in this world.

That's what building a body of work is all about -- it's about the daily labor, the many individual acts, the choices large and small that add up over time, over a lifetime, to a lasting legacy. That's what you want on your tombstone.

And if you ever forget that, just look to history. Thomas Paine was a failed corset maker, a failed teacher, and a failed tax collector before he made his mark on history with a little book called "Common Sense" that helped ignite a revolution. Julia Child didn't publish her first cookbook until she was almost 50. Colonel Sanders didn't open up his first Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was in his 60s. Your body of work is never done.

Each of them, at one point in their life, didn't have any title or much status to speak of. But they had passion, a commitment to following that passion wherever it would lead, and to working hard every step along the way.

And that's not just how you'll ensure that your own life is well-lived. It's how you'll make a difference in the life of our nation. I talked earlier about the selfishness and irresponsibility on that rippled out and led to so many of the problems that we face today. I talked about the focus on outward markers of success that can help lead us astray.

It works the other way around too. Acts of sacrifice and decency without regard to what's in it for you -- that also creates ripple effects -- ones that lift up families and communities; that spread opportunity and boost our economy; that reach folks in the forgotten corners of the world who, in committed young people like you, see the true face of America: our strength, our goodness, our diversity, our enduring power, our ideals.

Congratulations, Class of 2009, on your graduation. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America."

8:26 P.M. MST

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common good, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish veganism for the United States of America

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1 comment:

  1. Lie lie lie lie liar you lie
    Lie lie lie lie lie tell me why
    Tell me why why dyou have to lie

    -sex pistols

    (seems appropriate) - :D