AP~President Barack Obama, addressing graduates at historically black Hampton University on Sunday, said that it is the responsibility of all Americans to offer every child the type of education that will make them competitive in an economy in which just a high school diploma is no longer enough.
Obama told the nearly 1,100 graduates assembled in the university’s sun-splashed Armstrong Stadium that they have the added responsibility of being role models and mentors in their communities.
Clad in a blue gown, Obama recalled the university’s humble beginning in September 1861 as a school for escaped slaves who sought asylum after fleeing nearby plantations in the Confederate South. Obama said the founders recognized that, with the right education, such barriers as inequality would not persist for long.
“They recognized, as Frederick Douglass once put it, that ‘education means emancipation.’ They recognized that education is how America and its people might fulfill our promise,” said Obama, the first black U.S. president.
Drawing parallels to current challenges, Obama noted that Hampton’s graduates are leaving school as the economy rebounds from its worst downturn since the 1930s, and with the U.S. at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obama said education can help them manage the uncertainties of a 21st century economy.
For much of the last century, a high school diploma “was a ticket to a solid middle-class life,” he said. But no more, as jobs today often require at least a bachelor’s degree – or higher. To that end, Obama is pouring tens of billions of dollars into K-12 and higher education with an eye on raising standards and building the future workforce.
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