April 29th, 2011
09:53 PM ET
MIAMI (CNN) - President Barack Obama traveled to downtown Miami Friday evening, where he delivered remarks to some 4,000 new graduates of Miami Dade College (MDC).
"Class of 2011, you and your generation are now responsible for our future. I'm only going to be president a little bit longer," Obama said. "You are going to be leaders for many years to come."
During the 25-minute address, the president spoke of equality, diversity, and tolerance to the students, who were mostly Hispanic and black. Some, Obama acknowledged in his speech, were undocumented.
His loudest applause lines came when he expressed his confidence that Washington would fix the "broken" immigration system, and his desire to pass the DREAM Act , which would give citizenship to those undocumented residents who either enlist in the U.S. military or seek a college degree.
"It will be difficult, and it will take time," Obama said. "I know some of you wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself, but that’s not how democracy works. Democracy is hard, but it’s right."
He then shared a personal story about his own father, who came to study in the United States from Kenya. While Obama has written about his father, he doesn't often speak of him publicly.
"I didn't know him well, my father. He lived a troubled life," he told the students. "But I know that when he was around your age, he dreamed of something more than his lot in life. He dreamed of that magical place. He dreamed of coming to study in America."
Obama recounted how he traveled to Kenya just out of college to visit the home where his father lived as a boy. He met his father's stepmother, who presented the younger Obama with about 30 letters written by his father to colleges and universities all across America.
"They were written in simple, sometimes awkward, sometimes grammatically incorrect – unmistakably hopeful voice of somebody who was just desperate for a chance, desperate to live his unlikely dream," he said of the letters.
When the University of Hawaii gave him that chance, Obama's father met Stanley Ann Dunham. "They had a son," Obama noted, "in the land where all things were possible."
The president also recalled a memory from his childhood in Hawaii, where he sat atop his grandfather's shoulders to catch a glimpse of Apollo astronauts returning from a splashdown at sea after a mission to space – some 40 before he took his own girls to see the scrubbed space shuttle Endeavor launch today.
After the address, Obama received an honorary associate's degree from the school. His first associate's degree, he noted.