President Obama delivered the commencement address at the University of California, Irvine’s graduation ceremony in Anaheim’s Angel Stadium on Saturday, using the speech to discuss the hot-button of issue of climate change and calling students to action.
The president started his speech just after noon and finished speaking at around 12:40 p.m.
Obama began the address by congratulating the class of 2014, telling them he came to their graduation simply because they asked him to.
He added that the White House had received about 10,000 postcards from UC Irvine students trying to get him to attend.
The president then shifted his focus and started discussing the environment.
Noting that the 18 warmest years on the planet on record have occurred since the graduates were born, Obama said, “The question is not whether we need to act… The question is whether we have the will to act before it’s too late.”
Obama later stated that UC Irvine was at the forefront of the issue, having created the first Department of Earth System Science in the country.
But, he continued, more work still needed to be done.
“Climate change is no longer a distance threat, but has moved into the present,” Obama said.
The president then challenged the students to act on environmental issues, and discussed the various ways they could put their degrees to use in the field.
“We need scientists to design new fuels. We need farmers to help grow them,” he said. “We need engineers to invent new technologies. We need entrepreneurs to sell those technologies. We need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high tech, zero carbon components. We need builders to hammer into place the clean energy age.”
Obama added, “We can do this. We can make a difference. You can make a difference. And the sooner you do, the better.”
During the speech, he also announced that a $1 billion competitive fund was being created for communities that were being impacted by severe weather.
About 8,000 undergraduates and graduate students were expected to be awarded degrees during Saturday’s ceremony, which was the only graduation President Obama was scheduled to speak at this year.
A number of students said prior to the ceremony they were excited that the president would be delivering the commencement address to the class.
“It’s always been my dream to see the president, and having him here at my college graduation is just a great honor,” said student Charles Carpio.
Some said politics didn’t factor into their excitement.
“People are like, ‘oh that’s just Obama, it’s just Obama, you know, Obamacare this, Obamacare that,’ but I don’t really care, “another graduating student said. “This is the President of the United States. He’s coming here to speak for us!”
More than 30,000 attended the ceremony, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Obama’s address marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s speech that dedicated the land that would become UC Irvine.
The president’s Southern California trip began when he arrived in Palm Springs on Friday evening. He attended a fundraiser in Laguna Beach on Saturday morning prior to the ceremony.
After delivering the speech, Obama returned to Palm Springs, where he was expected to stay until Monday morning, according to the White House.
KTLA’s Dave Mecham and Kimberly Cheng contributed to this report.