May 14th, 2012
04:39 PM ET

Obama to graduates: "Fight for a seat at the head of the table!"

In a speech tailored to target issues close to the hearts of a key voter demographic- women, President Barack Obama Monday encouraged the 2012 graduating class at the all-female Barnard College in New York to shape their destiny.

"After decades of slow, steady, extraordinary progress, you are now poised to make this the century where women shape not only their own destiny but the destiny of this nation and of this world," Mr. Obama said in his first commencement address of the season.

"Don't just get involved, fight for your seat at the table," he told the 600 graduates. "Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table."

Less than a week after declaring his support for same-sex marriage, Mr. Obama touched only briefly on the hot button issue.

“If you are ready to fight for that brilliant, radically simple idea of America that no matter who you are or what you look like, no matter who you love or what God you worship, you can still pursue your own happiness, I will join you every step of the way,” the president told the graduates.

Mr. Obama received the Barnard Medal of Distinction. Among the other recipients of the medal Monday was gay rights advocate Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. Wolfson had been outspoken in urging the president to endorse marriage equality.

The president spoke before a welcoming audience as some students chanted "Yes we can," as he took the stage according to a pool report.

Barnard is the sister school to the president's alma mater, Columbia University.

Mr. Obama acknowledged a still struggling economy facing today's graduates saying, "This recession has been more brutal, the job losses steeper. Politics seems nastier. Congress more gridlocked than ever."

He also noted what he called "unique challenges" to women in this economy like equal pay for equal work and balancing work and family.

And he delivered a swipe to Wall Street saying, "Some folks in the financial world have not exactly been model corporate citizens."

But he then struck a note of optimism counseling, "as tough as things have been, I am convinced you are tougher. I've seen your passion and I've seen your service."

"And that defiant, can-do spirit is what runs through the veins of American history. It's the lifeblood of all our progress. And it is that spirit which we need your generation to embrace and rekindle right now," he said.

Topics: Gay Marriage • President Obama • Women

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Sponge-Bob

    Another staged event with a captive audience where he can spread more BS.

    May 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • sam

      That is why you are Sponge -Bob, useless GOP/Rethugs who are constantly sad when everybody are making progress but happy that only few PEN ROBBERS in GOP/Financiers are robbing the country blind. Thats why you are sponge not human saaaaadddddd

      May 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
      • Name*Liz Carter

        Sam, Good comment!! I know tht's right!! Joey is Sponge-Bob because I called him that one day and he liked it,..changed his 'name' right then,..that day!! Joey/Sponge-Bob, why don't you stop your BS?? You and Jerry are two of the biggest bullsh*ters on this site, and especially to be claiming veterans!! It's getting so old now. You know D***N well, this President has done very well with what and who he's had to work with, which is NOTHING and NOBODY!! @Jean, that's the butt-naked truth!! Everyone that was there at the graduation was there because they wanted to be!! NO!! I didn't see anybody chained to the chairs either!! These clowns are pathetic!! I can't wait for November to come and go!! Obama/Biden 2012!! Yes we will again!!

        May 15, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • jean2009

      @joey I didn't see anyone chained to seats.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Ray E. (Georgia)

      Of course all those "Children" should get a Degree. Then they will go out in the World and get an Education. And just maybe, some of them will find some of those "Shovel Ready" jobs Obama promised.No doubt the "Stuff" Obama is shoveling is getting pretty deep.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:41 am |
      • Stacey G. (Georgia)

        I sure hope they got those shovels ready. Then they can come to Georgia and move some of the evil hate mongering $%it sitting in Georgia government.

        May 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
      • Name*Liz Carter

        No Ray,...that's what you have been shoveling sinse the man sat down in the Oval Office, along with the rest of your ILK!! You are going to pay in November!! Intelligent people aren't signing on to your BS!! We know what the real deal is!!

        May 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  2. gigi

    You are BS not him.

    May 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  3. cashmeremafia

    Of course he's spreading more BS – we all know getting a degree is sooo snobbish

    May 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • sam

      What sense do a mafia have, full of shit and cocain, you dont need to talk you seems to be the type that have no college or any education that is why you are sad. Thief in Chief Romney who rob every company blind in the name of managing to make is millions do attend a religious university whose degree they award is of no importance to those that attend it unlike the university the president addressed so get over and do us a favour, stop supporting Rotten Romney, who destroyed peoples life to make is money.

      May 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
      • Young

        Instead of having a perninomt Democrat and a perninomt Republican speak against Iran, no perninomt figure from either party will do so. This is entirely because of the efforts of pro-Democrats.Remind me again that both parties favor country above party.I used to describe myself as a member of the Joe Lieberman wing of the Democratic Party. Well, so much for that. The party, which I belonged to for several decades, made it clear it doesn't have room for me. I can take a hint.

        August 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  4. jerrylax

    He visited the View also and said "JP Morgan is one of the best banks we got." Had a big smile on his face...has a big smile on his face in this pic too...gosh, you would not believe the financial markets are in upheavel, the middle east is on the brink of war (Israel is arming and call up the military draft), Egypt and Libya are going muslim brotherhood, jobs are disappearing (phoney job number claims), and it just goes on and on...and he smiles wide. One would think this is the way he wants it...obama does not have an American brain..he is NOT one of us. We need leadership we can identify and put trust into... a man with moral base and actually has a demonsterated success of achievement.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Lionel

      @Jerry – I see the haters are at it again. Can't acknowledge something good for a change.

      Look we have created 4 million jobs in the last 2 years and saved our country from another great depression.

      Thanks to Obama for being so positive and taking our country FORWARD.

      Obama/Biden 2012

      May 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
      • Lizzie

        And he tells them to fight for the head of the table, yet the democrats/liberals tell everyone today that RICH class is doing NOTHING for the people. Does that mean fight for your seat but don't you dare and become RICH.

        May 14, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
      • jerry

        the economy is still slipping and we all know we are at a huge job really have to manipulate the jobs numbers to make obama appear to look good. Its all smoking mirrors with this guy...he just does not know what he is way way over his floppy eared head.

        May 15, 2012 at 10:08 am |
      • DEcember 2012


        May 15, 2012 at 10:11 am |
      • Name*Liz Carter

        @Lionel; that is their modus operendi!! They don't want to accept any good thing coming from this President or from under his watch, PERIOD!! They will dismiss anything that is good, or could be percieved as good on any front, and twist it to be a bad thing!! They are Satans children!! They will pay in November!! LOL!! Don't hate!! Congratulate!! Jerry!!

        May 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
      • Monic

        to a class of Columbia University grad students that there are jobs being crtaeed in the near future that none of us in this room can fathom and there will be jobs we thought we could depend on that will be lost. So get use to it . So when the medical field and insurance business decrease to almost nothing new businesses will arise to replace them. Like maybe aquaculture for fresh fruits and veggies grown in any climate year round on your local street corner or health practicioners that actually teach how to treat the cause of pain and bad health. Anyway you get my point, i for one am not worried about change because it brings with it a fresh breath of hope and in this case happiness for millions of people. Keep up the great articles and research.Your friend from the Westerly Sea SideDan Liese

        August 1, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  5. sam

    All sadist/gop/rethugs should go and have their head buried in the bible, doubt that you people ever read the bible you only carried it around but do not read that is why majority of you are always sad/heartbroken when the president is doing good/ great job around. You dont want a muslim/ religious thug in power in egypt/tunisia/libya, but all you IDIOTS REPUTHUGS/GOP/BIBLE DISORIENTED/MISAPLIED FOOLS want to take over white house again, when the mess you created last time is still smelling around america and the whole world. Please let the sensible and respected man run and restore the pride of america for another 4 years before another STINKING/SHITTY RETHUGS/GOP have a sniff.

    May 14, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Name*Liz Carter

      You go Sam!! Tell it like it is!! We know what it is!! It's all hate, vengeance and racism. They can't have a black man coming out looking 'smarter' than them!! That is the bottomline to all of the whining and vitriol!! They just hate an intelligent black man in any Position!! President of The United States,...OMG!! NO WAY!!

      May 15, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
      • Maricita

        This is one of the most important iseuss facing America today. We have been hoodwinked and scammed by an illegal alien who refuses to show his real birth certificate. Why would he do so unless he has something to hide? How could he fly to Pakistan in 1981 when American citizens were not allowed to fly to Pakistan? Where are his college records? Why is NOTHING known of this man's past? Most importantly, IF he is found out, he will have to resign and every appointment, every socialist piece of legislation from bailouts to Obamacare are null and void! That, in itself, is reason enough to pursue this Manchurian Candidate who has lied to the American people from day ONE and continues to hijack our republic with his socialist agenda. It would mean Elena Kagan and Sonja Sotomeyer, the two most radical jurists in our nation's history, would be ineligible to serve on the Supreme Court. PLEASE support this effort and let's see this to it's conclusion. I, for one, want to see his Nixon wave from the helicopter as he leaves town.

        July 30, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  6. nyumbu

    Why is it always the boomer brats, who were handed easy lives on a silver platter, used up all the resources and preserved nothing for the future telling the youth...fight for your life? and can say it with a straight face as if theres hope?

    May 15, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • jerry

      this fight for rhetoric is obama the community organizer radical talk...and, he is not truly American so he not a boomer...anything but.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Ron in California

      I'm a Boomer. Did I miss my silver platter? I educated myself, worked hard for 45 years and have done well. Not only did i not get a silver platter...there was no silver spoon. I don't fell entitled to anything either. Based on my income my wife and I and my employer have paid more than $500,000 into SS. I have earned it. Same for Medicare..I paid medicare tax all my working life and pay a 9,000 per year in premiums. I expect to get that for which I have paid. That is part of the OWS and younger generations problem...they think they are stuck paying for the Boomers. Think about paying Boomers have paid for nearly everything you required as you grew up. Roads, school, teachers, healthcare, welfare, etc didn't fall out of the sky. STOP whining stand up work hard do well. If you choose not to that is your problem.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Name*Liz Carter

      Boomer Brats; most of us were the ones who did work. We are the ones who did retire from our jobs, whatever they were, unless we had to leave early do to job losses before we could retire properly. Or maybe we had to leave do to disabilities of illnesses!! We are the ones who did try to follow the examples of our parents 'The Greatest Generation' in America!! The ones who fought, and lived through WW2, came back home and went to work to raise their families!! We are the ones who truly we're taught that if you don't work, you don't eat!! Like our parents did, we worked in the nations' job force or system, paid into the systems programs; social security, medicare, medical insurance premiums, (which were higher than usual, because we were paying for those who had no insurance too) pension plans, purchased savings bonds, thrift savings plans, some of us paid into 401Ks, and bought CDs!! I will have to admit, many of us didn't retire with the biggest bank savings accounts, but we paid our way in this system, as we thought we had covered ourselves to at least be able to live, maybe not rich, but comfortably in retirement!! Now, us boomers are also the ones that fought in every war this nation has staged or participated in, and still had to come back and merge back into some simulance of a life like nothing had happened!! Now here we are at the age that most of our parents were when they retired, thinking that well now, it's finally our time to sit down and cool out, and some people of this same nation wants to snatch away ALL of the 'entitlements' we thought we were paying into to be able to use when our time came, as they continue to see to it that the rich stay rich!! It is NOT right, NOR fair!! We've worked and paid for others, it's time for us to reap some benefits and the next generations work for us!! That is the way it's always worked in America!! So why is it such a big whoop-ta-do NOW?? Is it that you all thought we weren't going to live so long?? You though we were ALL going to die at WOODSTOCK?? Surprise!!! Some of us made it back from there!! It was fun while it lasted but anything gets old, so we woke up soon after, if not before and managed to come back into society, find jobs and retire from them, JUST LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED!! Yes!! We want ours!! Btw, you talk about Obama telling the children to fight for their seat at the table; I remember Bush saying the same thing when he first got in office!! He was talking about finding other retirement alternatives, because they were talking about getting rid of social security, or privatizing it. Therfore, we wouldn't be receiving as much in our checks as was first promised!! So what do you say about that?? Or are you just another pathetic, inhumane hater of your own American brothers and sisters?? THE BOOMER BRATS!! I certainly was one, my father got back home from the Pacific in 1946 and I was born in 1948, so yeah!! I'm one alright!! I want mine!!

      May 16, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  7. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    YES bu ALL means be a Chicago thug...

    The Progressive end always justifies the means...

    FORWARD to Total Depravity !!!
    Worked well for Rome...

    May 15, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  8. DM

    Sadly, the uneducated and inexperienced youth are voting for Obama (which means that they will be shackled with mounting national debt). A very sad story is unfolding.

    May 15, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  9. Ron in California

    Yes!! get to the head of the table...succeed on your merits. If you make it, we will vilify you and seek to take the fruits of your labor and give it to those who don't achieve anything.

    May 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  10. Kool-Aid Police

    Obama to grads: "After you pick up your degree go around back to pick up your welfare check and food stamps".

    May 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Name*Liz Carter

      @Kool-Aid Police, very funny! Ha-Ha-Ha!! However, if that is what he's having to tell them, you can thank your GOP ILK for that!! They are the ones who have all of a sudden that getting an education is 'snobbish', an un-American!! They certainly have dismissed his American Jobs Act!! On top of that, they are the ones undermining and sabatoging him by halting the job markets from hiring people, even though business people are still enjoying the Bush Tax Cuts!! Thank your folk for that, buddy!! BTW, I'm a TeaParty Police!!

      May 15, 2012 at 11:30 pm |