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  • (applause)

  • The President: Hello, Anteaters!

  • (applause)

  • That is something I never thought I'd say.

  • (laughter)

  • Please, please take a seat.

  • To President Napolitano -- which is a nice step

  • up from Secretary; to Fred Ruiz, Vice Chair

  • of the University of California Regents; Chancellor Drake;

  • Representatives Loretta Sanchez

  • and Alan Lowenthal; to the trustees and faculty --

  • thank you for this honor.

  • And congratulations to the Class of 2014!

  • (applause)

  • Now, let me begin my saying

  • all of you had the inside track in getting me here --

  • because my personal assistant, Ferial,

  • is a proud Anteater.

  • (applause)

  • Until today, I did not understand

  • why she greets me every morning by shouting "Zot, Zot, Zot!"

  • (laughter)

  • It's been a little weird.

  • But she explained it to me on the way here

  • this morning, because she's very proud

  • to see her brother, Sina, graduate today as well.

  • (applause)

  • So, graduates, obviously we're proud

  • of you, but let's give it up for your proud family and

  • friends and professors, because

  • this is their day, too.

  • (applause)

  • And even though he's on the road this weekend,

  • I also want to thank Angels centerfielder Mike Trout

  • for letting me cover his turf for a while.

  • (applause)

  • He actually signed

  • a bat for me, which is part of my retirement plan.

  • (laughter)

  • I will be keeping that.

  • And this is a very cool place

  • to hold a commencement.

  • I know that UC Irvine's baseball team opens

  • College World Series play in Omaha right about now --

  • (applause)

  • -- so let's get this speech underway.

  • If the hot dog guy comes by, get me one.

  • (laughter)

  • Now, in additional to Ferial, graduates,

  • I'm here for a simple reason: You asked.

  • For those who don't know, the UC Irvine community

  • sent 10,000 postcards to the White House asking

  • me to come speak today.

  • (applause)

  • Some tried to guilt me into coming.

  • I got one that said, "I went to your first

  • inauguration, can you please

  • come to my graduation?"

  • (applause)

  • Some tried bribery: "I'll support the Chicago Bulls."

  • Another said today would be your birthday --

  • so happy birthday, whoever you are.

  • My personal favorite -- somebody wrote and said,

  • "We are super underrated!"

  • (laughter)

  • I'm sure she was talking

  • about this school.

  • But keep in mind, you're not only the number-one

  • university in America younger than 50 years old,

  • you also hold the Guinness World Record

  • for biggest water pistol fight.

  • (applause)

  • You're pretty excited about that.

  • (laughter)

  • "We are super underrated."

  • This young lady could have just as well been talking,

  • though, about this generation.

  • I think this generation of young people

  • is super underrated.

  • In your young lives, you've seen dizzying

  • change, from terror attacks

  • to economic turmoil; from Twitter to Tumblr.

  • Some of your families have known tough times

  • during the course of the worst economic crisis

  • since the Great Depression.

  • You're graduating into a still-healing job market,

  • and some of you are carrying student

  • loan debt that you're concerned about.

  • And yet, your generation -- the most educated,

  • the most diverse, the most tolerant,

  • the most politically independent and the most digitally

  • fluent in our history -- is also on record

  • as being the most optimistic about our future.

  • And I'm here to tell you that you are right

  • to be optimistic.

  • (applause)

  • You are right to be optimistic.

  • Consider this: Since the time most of you graduated

  • from high school, fewer Americans are at war.

  • More have health insurance.

  • More are graduating from college.

  • Our businesses have added more than

  • 9 million new jobs.

  • The number of states where you're free

  • to marry who you love has more than doubled.

  • (applause)

  • And that's just some of the progress

  • that you've seen while you've been studying

  • here at UC Irvine.

  • But we do face real challenges:

  • Rebuilding the middle class and reversing inequality's rise.

  • Reining in college costs.

  • Protecting voting rights.

  • Welcoming the immigrants and young dreamers

  • who keep this country vibrant.

  • Stemming the tide of violence

  • that guns inflict on our schools.

  • We've got some big challenges.

  • And if you're fed a steady diet of cynicism

  • that says nobody is trustworthy and nothing works,

  • and there's no way we can actually address these problems,

  • then the temptation is too just go it alone,

  • to look after yourself and not participate in the larger

  • project of achieving our best vision of America.

  • And I'm here to tell you,

  • don't believe the cynicism.

  • Guard against it.

  • Don't buy into it.

  • Today, I want to use one case study

  • to show you that progress is possible

  • and perseverance is critical.

  • I want to show you how badly we need you --

  • both your individual voices and your collective efforts --

  • to give you the chance you seek to change the world,

  • and maybe even save it.

  • I'm going to talk about one of the most

  • significant long-term challenges

  • that our country and our planet faces:

  • the growing threat of a rapidly changing climate.

  • Now, this isn't a policy speech.

  • I understand it's a commencement,

  • and I already delivered a long climate

  • address last summer.

  • I remember because it was 95 degrees

  • and my staff had me do it outside, and I was pouring

  • with sweat -- as a visual aid.

  • (laughter)

  • And since this is a very educated group,

  • you already know the science.

  • Burning fossil fuels release carbon dioxide.

  • Carbon dioxide traps heat.

  • Levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere

  • are higher than they've been in 800,000 years.

  • We know the trends.

  • The 18 warmest years on record have

  • all happened since you graduates were born.

  • We know what we see with our own eyes.

  • Out West, firefighters brave longer, harsher

  • wildfire seasons; states have to budget for that.

  • Mountain towns worry about what smaller

  • snowpacks mean for tourism.

  • Farmers and families at the bottom worry

  • about what it will mean for their water.

  • In cities like Norfolk and Miami, streets

  • now flood frequently at high tide.

  • Shrinking icecaps have National Geographic

  • making the biggest change in its atlas since

  • the Soviet Union broke apart.

  • So the question is not whether we need to act.

  • The overwhelming judgment of science,

  • accumulated and measured and reviewed over decades,

  • has put that question to rest.

  • The question is whether we have the will

  • to act before it's too late.

  • For if we fail to protect the world we leave

  • not just to my children, but to your children

  • and your children's children, we will fail

  • one of our primary reasons for being on this world

  • in the first place.

  • And that is to leave the world a little

  • bit better for the next generation.

  • Now, the good is you already know all this.

  • UCIrvine set up the first Earth System Science

  • Department in America.

  • applause)

  • A UC Irvine professor-student

  • team won the Nobel Prize for discovering that CFCs

  • destroy the ozone layer.

  • (applause)

  • A UC Irvine glaciologist's work

  • led to one of last month's report showing

  • one of the world's major ice sheets in irreversible retreat.

  • Students and professors are in the field

  • working to predict changing weather patterns,

  • fire seasons, and water tables -- working to understand

  • how shifting seasons affect global ecosystems;

  • to get zero-emission vehicles

  • on the road faster; to help coastal communities

  • adapt to rising seas.

  • And when I challenge colleges to reduce

  • their energy use to 20 percent by 2020,

  • UC Irvine went ahead and did it last year.

  • Done.

  • (applause)

  • So UC Irvine is ahead of the curve.

  • All of you are ahead of the curve.

  • Your generation reminds me of something

  • President Wilson once said.

  • He said, "Sometimes people call me an idealist.

  • Well, that is the way I know I am an American."

  • That's who we are.

  • And if you need a reason to be optimistic about

  • our future, then look around this stadium.

  • Because today, in America, the largest single

  • age group is 22 years ago.

  • And you are going to do great things.

  • And I want you to know that I've got your back --

  • because one of the reasons I ran for this office

  • was because I believed our dangerous addiction

  • to foreign oil left our economy at risk

  • and our planet in peril.

  • So when I took office, we set out to use more

  • clean energy and less dirty energy,

  • and waste less energy overall.

  • And since then, we've doubled the distance

  • our cars will go on a gallon of gas by the middle

  • of the next decade.

  • We've tripled the electricity we harness

  • from the wind, generating enough last year

  • to power every home in California.

  • We've multiplied the electricity

  • we generate from the sun 10 times over.

  • And this state, California,

  • is so far ahead of the rest of the country in solar,

  • that earlier this year solar power met 18 percent

  • of your total power demand one day.

  • (applause)

  • The bottom line is, America produces more

  • renewable energy than ever,

  • more natural gas than anyone.

  • And for the first time in nearly two decades,

  • we produce more oil here at home than

  • we buy from other countries.

  • And these advances have created jobs

  • and grown our economy, and helped cut our carbon pollution

  • to levels not seen in about 20 years.

  • Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced

  • its total carbon pollution by as much

  • as the United States of America.

  • (applause)

  • So that's all reason for optimism.

  • Here's the challenge: We've got to do more.

  • What we're doing is not enough.

  • And that's why, a couple weeks ago,

  • America proposed new standards to limit the amount

  • of harmful carbon pollution that power plants

  • can dump into the air.

  • And we also have to realize, as hundreds