By Amie Parnes - 05/14/12 07:11 PM EDT
President Obama on Monday told graduates of Barnard College that their generation will “help lead the way” to “bring about the changes we need” to help move the country in the right direction.
Delivering the keynote address at the private women’s college in New York City, Obama told the nearly 600 graduates the country’s challenges are “imminently solvable” and it was up to them to help.
The speech was part of an effort by Team Obama to lure two key demographics to their column: women and young voters. And Obama made sure to tout his efforts to help women, including passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
The president also briefly mentioned the healthcare reform law, though he spent little time discussing the controversial contraception rule from earlier this year.
“We know that we’re better off when women are treated fairly and equally,” Obama said, adding that more and more women are out-earning their husbands.
Obama shared a stage with Evan Wolfson, the founder of Freedom to Marry, the pro-gay-rights group who was honored by the school on Monday. The president made reference to his support of gay marriage, saying, “No matter who you are and what you look like, no matter who you love” the graduates can pursue their own happiness.
Obama, resplendent in a pale blue robe, doled out some presidential advice to the crowd of women graduates to not just get involved but “fight for your seat at the table.”
“Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table,” he added.
The president — who earned his bachelor's degree at nearby Columbia College and received a medal of distinction from the college on Monday — also urged students to “never underestimate the power of your example” and “persevere.”
He appeared to have a receptive audience. Before he began his speech, some students cheered, “Yes we can!” Obama’s popular slogan from the 2008 campaign. And before exiting the stage, he was met with chants of “Obama! Obama!”