Columbus: A year to the day after kicking off his victorious re-election campaign on this college campus, President Barack Obama returned to Ohio State University and told graduates that only through vigorous participation in their democracy can they right a poorly functioning government and break through relentless cynicism about the nation`s future.
"I dare you, Class of 2013, to do better. I dare you to do better," Obama said.
In a sunbaked stadium filled with more than 57,000 students, friends and relatives, Obama lamented an American political system that gets consumed by "small things" and works for the benefit of society`s elite. He called graduates to duty to "accomplish great things," like rebuilding a still-feeble economy and fighting poverty and climate change.
"Only you can ultimately break that cycle. Only you can make sure the democracy you inherit is as good as we know it can be," Obama told more than 10,000 cap-and-gown-clad graduates gathered for the rite of passage. "But it requires your dedicated, informed and engaged citizenship."
The visit to Ohio State the first of three commencement addresses Obama will give this season was a homecoming of sorts for Obama, who has visited the campus five times over little more than a year, starting with his first official campaign rally here last May.
He urged graduates to run for office, start a business or join a cause, contending that the health of their democracy "requires your dedicated, informed and engaged citizenship".
"You`ll hear voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that`s the root of all our problems," Obama said. "You should reject these voices. Because what these suggest is that our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can`t be trusted."
Ohio State bestowed an honorary doctorate on Obama, applauding his "unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose".