Thank you, Father Jenkins for that generous introduction. You are doing an outstanding job as president of this fine institution, and your continued and courageous commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue is an inspiration to us all.
Good afternoon Father Hesburgh, Notre Dame trustees, faculty, family, friends, and the class of 2009. I am honored to be here today, and grateful to all of you for allowing me to be part of your graduation.
I want to thank you for this honorary degree. I know it has not been without controversy. I don't know if you're aware of this, but these honorary degrees are apparently pretty hard to come by. So far I'm only 1 for 2 as President. Father Hesburgh is 150 for 150. I guess that's better. Father Ted, after the ceremony, maybe you can give me some pointers on how to boost my average.
I also want to congratulate the class of 2009 for all your accomplishments. And since this is Notre Dame, I mean both in the classroom and in the competitive arena. We all know about this university's proud and storied football team, but I also hear that Notre Dame holds the largest outdoor 5-on-5 basketball tournament in the world - Bookstore Basketball.
Now this excites me. I want to congratulate the winners of this year's tournament, a team by the name of "Hallelujah Holla Back." Well done. Though I have to say, I am personally disappointed that the "Barack O'Ballers" didn't pull it out. Next year, if you need a 6'2" forward with a decent jumper, you know where I live.
Every one of you should be proud of what you have achieved at this institution. One hundred and sixty three classes of Notre Dame graduates have sat where you are today. Some were here during years that simply rolled into the next without much notice or fanfare - periods of relative peace and prosperity that required little by way of sacrifice or struggle.
You, however, are not getting off that easy. Your class has come of age at a moment of great consequence for our nation and the world - a rare inflection point in history where the size and scope of the challenges before us require that we remake our world to renew its promise; that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age. It is a privilege and a responsibility afforded to few generations - and a task that you are now called to fulfill.
This is the generation that must find a path back to prosperity and decide how we respond to a global economy that left millions behind even before this crisis hit - an economy where greed and short-term thinking were too often rewarded at the expense of fairness, and diligence, and an honest day's work.
We must decide how to save God's creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it. We must seek peace at a time when there are those who will stop at nothing to do us harm, and when weapons in the hands of a few can destroy the many. And we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity - diversity of thought, of culture, and of belief.
In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family.
It is this last challenge that I'd like to talk about today. For the major threats we face in the 21st century - whether it's global recession or violent extremism; the spread of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease - do not discriminate. They do not recognize borders. They do not see color. They do not target specific ethnic groups.
Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.
Unfortunately, finding that common ground - recognizing that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a "single garment of destiny" - is not easy. Part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of man - our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin. We too often seek advantage over others. We cling to outworn prejudice and fear those who are unfamiliar. Too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism; in which the world is necessarily a zero-sum game. The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice. And so, for all our technology and scientific advances, we see around the globe violence and want and strife that would seem sadly familiar to those in ancient times.