Updated 05/14/2012 05:56 PM
Obama gives commencement address at Barnard College
President Obama gave the commencement address at Barnard College in New York City on Monday. The president paid tribute to the women who raised him and called on the graduates to fight complacency as they enter the work force. YNN's Josh Robin has more.
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NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. -- The President called his audience of nearly 600 young women part of a unique new generation.
"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," Obama said.
But getting there isn't inevitable. Women are more than half of the students at universities, but are far less likely to hold positions of power in the workplace.
Obama said, "My first piece of advice is this: Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table."
He had two other suggestions for the rapt crowd. First, be an example to others. And second…
"Persevere. Nothing worthwhile is easy. No one of achievement has avoided failure, sometimes catastrophic failures. But they keep at it," Obama said.
It was a lesson he says he learned on the very spot where he stood Monday.
For the president coming to Morningside Heights was a homecoming of sorts. After transferring from Occidental College, Obama graduated from Columbia University in 1983.
"It was here that I tried to find my place in this world. I knew I wanted to make a difference, but it was vague how in fact I’d go about it,” Obama said.
He says he tried different things, keeping one constant: Not giving up.
"I got it from watching the people who raised me. More specifically, I got it from watching the women who shaped my life," he said.
There was no direct mention of the upcoming election, but you could read between the political lines. Especially in the venue: Obama wants to maintain what polls show is a commanding lead with women over his presumptive opponent Mitt Romney.
He probably doesn't have to worry about Monday's crowd. The graduates were shouting his campaign slogan from 2008” “Yes we can.”