U.S. President Barack Obama didn’t shy away from the “snub” by Arizona State University officials who said he hadn’t accomplished enough yet to deserve an honorary degree.
In a commencement speech Wednesday to a stadium full of young graduates, he said the officials were right.
“I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven’t yet achieved enough in my life,” Obama said. With a smile he added: “First of all, (first lady) Michelle (Obama) concurs with that assessment. She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home.”
“But more than that I come to embrace the notion that I haven’t done enough in my life. I heartily concur,” the president said. “I come to affirm that one’s title, even a title like ‘president of the United States,’ says very little about how well one’s life has been led.”
Obama challenged the graduating class to find new sources of energy, to improve failing schools and never to rely on past achievement. While he congratulated them on earning a degree, Obama told them that the next steps mattered more than a piece of paper or tassel.
“I want to say to you today, graduates, class of 2009, that despite having achieved a remarkable milestone in your life – despite the fact that you and your families are so rightfully proud – you, too, cannot rest on your laurels. … Your own body of work is also yet to come,” the president said, wearing a black gown with red embellishments.
Guests who deliver commencement addresses typically are awarded honorary degrees as a sign of respect and appreciation. Arizona State University officials, however, did not award any honorary degrees this year.
“His body of work is yet to come. That’s why we’re not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency,” university spokeswoman Sharon Keeler said shortly after the school’s student newspaper first reported the decision.
To quell the controversy, the university instead renamed a scholarship for the 44th president of the U.S. At the beginning of his remarks, Obama thanked the school for the gesture.
– The Canadian Press