President Barack Obama says Arizona State University officials aren’t the only ones who think he needs to accomplish more to earn an honorary degree.
Add his wife Michelle to that list.
“I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven’t yet achieved enough in my life,” Obama said in a commencement speech Wednesday. With a smile he added: “First of all, 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. 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, improve failing schools and never to rely on past achievement. He congratulated them on earning a degree, and said the next steps mattered more than a piece of paper or a 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 and a blue hood.
Commencement speakers typically are awarded honorary degrees as a sign of respect and appreciation. Arizona State officials, however, did not award any such 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 after the school’s student newspaper first reported the decision.
To quell the controversy, the university instead renamed a scholarship for the nation’s 44th president. In his remarks, Obama thanked the school for the gesture.
Watch Obama Speak at ASU
He also met six recipients of the scholarship named for him, and commissioned a group of Army and Air Force cadets.
While the dispute over Obama’s honorary degree colored the buildup to the ceremony, a sweltering — and packed — Sun Devil Stadium seemed to care little. About 63,000 people crowded into the stadium to send 9,000 students into a marketplace that has lost 1.3 million jobs since February.
Obama flew to Albuquerque, N.M., after the speech. He planned a town hall-style meeting there Thursday on proposed restrictions on credit card companies.
Obama plans commencement addresses Sunday at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on May 22.
Protests were expected at Notre Dame, a Roman Catholic school, over Obama’s support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.