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  • Thank you so much. I can't tell you how much this means.

  • I am so proud to receive this honorary degree from this phenomenal university.

  • And I am thrilled to be here today to celebrate the Oregon State University class of 2012!

  • Go Beavs!

  • I want to start by thanking President Ray for that very kind introduction and for the

  • degree.

  • I also want to thank Provost Randhawa, I also want to recognize Mayor Julie Manning

  • who's here and all of the outstanding faculty, staff, and administrators and university leaders

  • here at OSU. I also want to acknowledge Tonga as well and

  • all of student speakers who are gonna be on this stage today, we are so proud of you

  • all. And of course, to the stars of today’s show,

  • the class of 2012 congratulations!

  • We are all so proud of you.

  • We are proud of how hard youve worked, how much youve grown, and all that youve

  • achieved during your time here at Oregon State.

  • And I know that none of you did this alone. As the president said earlier, you all are

  • here today in large part because of those beautiful people up in the bleachersthe

  • folks who pushed you, and believed in you, and answered the phone every time you called

  • even when you were just calling for money.

  • So graduates, again let’s give another round of applause for your family, especially

  • to all of the fathers out there on this beautiful Father’s day. Today is their day too.

  • Now, like all of you, I’m here today because of my family.

  • As you know, Craig Robinson, your men’s basketball coach, is my big brother.

  • And last fall, Craig called me up and he said that if I didn’t speak at this year’s

  • commencement, he was gonna tell mom on me.

  • And since our mother now lives with me, that threat actually still carries some weight.

  • But seriously, I’m not here today just because Craig has turned the Obama family into Beaver

  • Believers, which he has.

  • I’m also here, proudly, because of everything this university is doing for this country.

  • You have built one of the most sustainable campuses in America.

  • Youre conducting groundbreaking research on everything from agriculture, to nanotechnology,

  • to childhood obesity.

  • You are serving others in so many ways -- tutoring children, joining our armed forces, fighting

  • hunger and disease here in America and around the world.

  • So let me just say I can see why Craig feels so at home here at OSU.

  • Because in so many ways, the values you all embody are the values that he and I were raised with.

  • Craig and I grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

  • And our family was very close – I mean literally close, real close,

  • My mom, my dad, Craig and I, we lived in a little bitty apartment and for years,

  • Craig and I shared a bedroom divided by a wooden partition to give us the illusion of

  • separate rooms.

  • And at night, Craig and I would whisper to each other through the cracks in that partition

  • until one of us fell asleep, or Mom yelled and said shut up, be quiet. One or the other.

  • But while we didn’t have much space, our little home was bursting with love.

  • We spent lots of time together as a familylaughing and sharing stories at dinner

  • each night; playing board games, card games for hours, huddled around the kitchen table.

  • We enjoyed the simple pleasures in life like getting our report cards, because good grades

  • meant pizza for dinner, that was a highlight. Trying to hold in our giggles as Craig put

  • shaving cream on my Dad’s glasses while he napped sleeping on the back porch on hot

  • summer nights when the temperature in our little apartment became unbearable.

  • But it wasn’t all fun and games growing up.

  • Our parents were big believers in everyone doing their part around the house. Craig often

  • compared Saturday chores to boot camp.

  • And my parents were even more serious about our academics

  • My mom taught me and Craig how to read long before kindergarten started.

  • And she spent hours volunteering in our neighborhood public school, making sure we got the education

  • she knew we deserved.

  • That was the kind of childhood we had.

  • And one day, I will never forget when my brother was about ten, he asked my dad a simple question.

  • He said, “Dad, are we rich?”

  • To answer this question, my dad took his next paycheck from his job at the city water plant

  • and instead of depositing that check, he cashed it in small bills.

  • He then came home and dumped out all that money on the kitchen table.

  • Craig was impressedwith all that money, he thought we must be rich!

  • But then my Dad started explaining where all the money went each month little bit for rent

  • that much for gas this much for groceries.

  • And by the time he was done, there wasn’t a penny left on that table.

  • And Craig was shocked and so was I.

  • I mean, here we were, two kids growing up in a family that was just barely working class

  • but we were convinced that we were wealthy! We knew it.

  • And graduates, that’s what I’d like to talk with you about today.

  • I’d like to talk about what Craig and I learned from our family about leading a rich

  • life no matter how much money you have.

  • And while there are plenty of lessons I could sharethere are three that I’d like to emphasize today.

  • The first, no matter what struggles or setbacks you face in your life, focus on what you have,

  • not what youre missing.

  • My Dad taught us this lesson every day by how he lived his life.

  • My dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when my brother and I were still very young.

  • And as he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk and it took him longer to dress himself in the morning.

  • My dad had been an athlete all his life he was a boxer and a swimmer in high school.

  • So it must have been hard for him to feel his body declining to go from being an active,

  • vibrant young man to barely being able to make it up the stairs.

  • But if he was in pain, if he was at all disappointed with his fate, he never let on.

  • He never stopped smiling and laughing and even as he struggled to prop himself up on

  • his crutches to teach us to catch a ball, or hold a bat, or throw a punch.

  • No matter how bad he was feeling, he hardly ever missed a day of work because he was determined

  • to be our family’s provider and to give me and Craig the kind of opportunities he’d

  • never dreamed of for himself.

  • There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how our dad and how much he sacrificed

  • for me and Craig to be the people we are today.

  • And today, as First Lady, I see that same spirit , you know that that same kind of sacrifice

  • in people I meet all across this country.

  • I see it in parents like my dad, struggling to support their families I see it in students

  • like all of you, working so hard to get an education. I see it in young people who are

  • serving this country in uniform, facing challenges that most of us couldn’t even imagine.

  • And I’ve seen firsthand the sacrifices that our American heroes are making.

  • As First Lady, I have the extraordinary privilege of visiting wounded warriors in military hospitals

  • all across this country.

  • Many of them are your age or younger, and they have suffered terrible injuries.

  • Some of them have lost a limb; some of them have lost two limbs, some three.

  • Theyve endured dozens of surgeries theyve spent months learning to walk again and to talk again.

  • But despite the challenges, they persevere, they aren’t looking back.

  • They aren’t dwelling on what theyve lost.

  • Instead, theyre making plans for their lives. Theyre reimagining their futures.

  • They tell me theyre not just gonna walk again theyre gonna run and theyre

  • gonna run marathons.

  • I recently met a young Navy Lieutenant named Brad Snyder who’d been blinded by an IED

  • explosion in Afghanistan.

  • He competed in this year’s Warrior Games as a runner and a swimmer.

  • And of his service, he said this, “I am not going to let my blindness build a brick wall

  • around me. I’d give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done

  • and what I can still do.”

  • And graduates, more than anything else, that will be the true measure of your success not

  • how well you do when youre healthy, and happy and everything is going according to plan.

  • But what you do when life knocks you to the ground and all your plans go right out the window.

  • In those darkest moments, you will have a choice: Do you dwell on everything youve

  • lost?

  • Or do you focus on what you still have, and find a way to move forward with passion, with

  • determination, and with joy.

  • I know that many of you in this graduating class have already faced this choice in your

  • own lives. Tonga shared with us today but there is also one of today’s graduates, Vanessa Vasquez.

  • Vanessa’s parents are agricultural workers with a grade school education and she came

  • to Oregon State determined to build a better life for her four month-old daughter.

  • In addition to being a single mom, she’s juggled a full course load and a part-time

  • job.

  • But it all paid off and today, she’s receiving her degree in Construction Engineering and Management.

  • Her advice to other young people is very simple, she says: “With hard work and dedication,

  • anything is possible.”

  • Then there’s another member of the class of 2012, Nicolas Sitts, who’s earning his

  • degree in Chemical Engineering.

  • I understand that as a member of OSU’s Solar Vehicle Team, Nicolas spent two years painstakingly

  • building a solar car.

  • But when he took it out for a test drive last summer, it caught fire and exploded and Nicolas

  • sustained second and third degree burns on his arm, face and leg.

  • But instead of throwing in the towel, within a month, the team was back at work, building

  • another, hopefully less explosive car.

  • Vanessa and Nicolas and the OSU Solar Team didn’t give up when things got hard.

  • Instead, they just dug deeper, and worked harder, and refused to give up on the success

  • that they dreamed of.

  • And that actually brings me to the second lesson I want to share about leading a rich

  • lifeand that is to define success on your own terms.

  • Now, growing up, my parents always told me and Craig to be true to ourselves.

  • But really when youre a kid, it’s hard to know what that means.

  • And as you grow older, often, it’s just easier to grab for those gold stars and try to get that brass ring

  • Craig and I both know this from experience.

  • After graduating from college, we did everything we thought we should do to be successful.

  • Craig went to business school I went to law school we got prestigious jobs at an investment

  • bank and me at a law firm.

  • We soon had all the traditional markers of successthe fat paycheck, the fancy office,

  • the impressive lines on our resumes.

  • But the truth is, neither of us was all that fulfilled.

  • I didn’t want to be in some tall office building, writing legal memos. I wanted to be

  • down on the ground, helping the folks I grew up with.

  • I was living the dreambut it wasn’t my dream.

  • And Craig felt the same way, unbeknownst to me

  • So eventually we quit those corporate jobs.

  • I went to work in the Mayor’s office. Craig got a job coaching basketball and we both

  • took salary cuts that made our mother cringe.

  • But we were excited about our new careers.

  • We looked forward to going to work every morning.

  • And we both realized that success isn’t about how your life looks to others.

  • It’s about how it feels to you.

  • We realized that being successful isn’t about being impressive, it’s about being

  • inspired.

  • That’s what it means to be your true self.

  • It means looking inside yourself and being honest about what you truly enjoy doing.

  • Because graduates, I can promise you that youll never be happy plodding through someone else’s

  • idea of success.

  • Success is only meaningful, and enjoyable, if it feels like your own.

  • But of course, a successful career alone does not make for a rich life.

  • As youve all learned from the friends youve made and the relationships youve formed

  • here at OSU, what makes life truly rich are the people you share it with.

  • And that brings me to the final lesson I want to offer todayand that is, wherever you

  • go, whatever you do, don’t leave behind any unfinished business with the people you love.

  • You see, our dad died of complications from his MS when I was in my mid-twenties.

  • And let me tell you, for months, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

  • I had this physical sense of grief, this emptiness in my life that I just couldn’t fill.

  • But as hard as it was to lose my dad, and as much as I still miss him every day, I knew

  • that I had never missed a chance to tell my Dad I loved him, and he’d always done the

  • same for me.

  • And whenever Craig and I saw him struggling to walk and we worried that life was getting

  • too hard for him, my Mom would always reassure us that he was so proud of us. So proud to

  • be our father that he felt like he was the luckiest guy ever to walk the earth.

  • All of that gave me a sense of peace, a sense that I had no unfinished business with my dad.

  • And that’s what allowed me to move forward.

  • So graduates, as you make your way in the world, I urge you not to leave behind any

  • unfinished business.

  • If youre in a fight with someone, make up.

  • If youre holding a grudge, let it go.

  • If you hurt someone, apologize.

  • If you love someone, let them know.

  • And don’t just tell people that you love them, show them.

  • And that means showing up.

  • It means being truly present in the lives of the people you care about.

  • Likingthem on Facebook doesn’t count, nor does following them on Twitter.

  • What counts is making the time to be there, in person.

  • Because I can promise you that years from now, you will not remember the texts youve

  • exchanged with your friends here at OSU.

  • But you will remember how they cheered you on at your game.

  • You will remember how they brought you chocolate and spent hours comforting you when your boyfriend

  • or girlfriend dumped you. What jerks.

  • You will remember all the hours spent diligently studying in the library.

  • That one' s for the parents.

  • But seriously, those are the memories that youll carry with you for the rest of your life.

  • Those are the experiences that make you who you are.

  • And that is as true for me today as it was back when Craig and I were growing up in that

  • little apartment in Chicago.

  • You see, when I come out here to Corvallis and I visit my family, I am not the First Lady.

  • I’m Coach Robinson’s little sister.

  • I’m “Micheto Craig and to my niece and nephews.

  • I sleep on the pullout couch in Craig’s guest room and my daughters pile into the

  • living room with their cousins for a sleepover.

  • It reminds me of old times, with everyone huddled together in the kitchen laughing and

  • teasing and driving each other crazy, telling stories late into the night.

  • And just like when we were little, Craig and I feel very, very rich.

  • So graduates, that is my wish for all of you today.

  • I wish for you a life rich in all the things that matter.

  • I wish for you work that inspires you. I wish for you those experiences that help you learn

  • and grow. I wish for you people who love you and support you every step of the way. And

  • I can tell from the energy in this stadium you have all that and you will have more.

  • So congratulations again to all of you on all that you have achieved. And now the wind

  • has started, so it’s time for me to end.

  • Thank you all, and God bless.