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President Obama Turns Controversy into Message at ASU

6 years ago
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In his Commencement speech Wednesday evening at Arizona State University, President Obama turned the controversy over the school refusing to give him an honorary degree into a message to the graduating class that there is always room for improvement.

Quintero said merchants are being told to be stocked and staffed with some 25,000 folks expected to flood the community.
After it was announced in March that Obama would speak at ASU, the school said they would not give him an honorary degree, as is standard for most Commencement speakers. A spokesperson for the school told the Associated Press that they did not want to give Obama a degree at the very beginning of his presidency.

"It's our practice to recognize an individual for his body of work, somebody who's been in their position for a long time," the spokesperson said. "His body of work is yet to come."

ASU's decision not to give Obama an honorary degree caused significant controversy, so the school announced that they would instead expand a scholarship program and name it after Obama.

Obama addressed the degree controversy at the very beginning of his speech, joking that he had learned his lesson "to never again pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA bracket."

But Obama said he agreed with ASU that he has not yet achieved enough in his life, and that there is more he can do.

"In all seriousness, I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven't yet achieved enough in my life. I come here to embrace it; to heartily concur; to affirm that one's title, even a title like president, says very little about how well one's life has been led -- and that no matter how much you've done, or how successful you've been, there's always more to do, more to learn, more to achieve," Obama said.

He told students, that as they graduate, their "body of work is yet to come." He cautioned them not to become "lulled into complacency by our own achievements."

"This is 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 to a lasting legacy. It's about not being satisfied with the latest achievement, the latest gold star -- because one thing I know about a body of work is that it's never finished," Obama said. "It's cumulative; it deepens and expands with each day that you give your best, and give back, and contribute to the life of this nation."

The ASU Commencement is the first of three graduations Obama will address this month. He is due to speak at Notre Dame - my school -- Sunday, and then the U.S. Naval Academy on May 22.

Other than the honorary degree controversy, the ASU and Naval Academy Commencement addresses have caused little stir compared to the scene at Notre Dame.

People within and outside of Notre Dame have criticized the Catholic university for allowing a pro-choice president to speak at graduation and for granting him an honorary doctorate of laws.

Obama faced the ASU controversy head-on, organizing his entire speech around the theme of a life's body of work never being done. At Notre Dame, he has to tackle criticism about his abortion and stem cell stances.

Based on his ASU speech, I think Obama won't shy away from the discussion, but instead will directly address the controversy about his policies that are in conflict with Catholic teaching.

It's a risky move -- the Catholic vote in 2012 could be at stake.

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