Yahoo! News: Obama challenges to build character
By Philip Elliott
Students at Southern New Hampshire University got a dose of reality Saturday about growing up from presidential candidate Barack Obama. "The world doesn't just revolve around you," he told them.
The Democratic senator from Illinois said simply graduating does not make them adults, that it is through deeds that one matures and builds character.
"There's often an assumption on days like today that growing up is purely a function of age, that becoming an adult is an inevitable progression that can be measured by a series of milestones â" college graduation or your first job or the first time you throw a party where you also serve food," Obama said.
"And yet, maturity does not come from any one occasion. It emerges as a quality of character," he said. "Because the fact is, I know a whole lot of 30- and 40- and 50-year olds who have not yet put away childish things, who continually struggle to rise above the selfish or the petty or the small."
Obama mentioned his campaign just twice â" once as a punch line and then to recognize a campaign volunteer who was graduating that day. Some of his remarks echoed biographical details of his stump speech.
"I ended up paying for my first law degree for years and years, so for all of you with visions of law school, I'd consider running for president and waiting for a commencement invite instead because it's much cheaper to get your degree this way," Obama joked.
Throughout the address, Obama called on the 1,000 graduates and the thousands in the audience to take responsibility.
"You will be tested by the challenges of this new century, and at times you will fail," Obama said. "But know that you have it within your power to try, that generations who have come before you faced these same fears and uncertainties in their own time, and that if we're willing to shoulder each other's burdens, to take great risks and to persevere through trial, America will continue its journey toward that distant horizon and a better day."
He said the fear of failure should not paralyze them.
"Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it's not," Obama said.
Before Obama spoke, the Student Government Association president said at the ceremony: "Senator, I, too, was told that the campus of Southern New Hampshire University may just not be ready to elect a president with a funny name like Okendo and the tinge of the skin like my own. Don't let them stop you, senator. Don't let them stop you, senator."
Okendo Lewis-Gayle, who, like Obama is black, then walked over to Obama and shook his hand.