US President Barack Obama has some advice for the class of 2010: Open your minds.

It may make your blood boil. Your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. --- President Barack Obama

Look at all sides. Use your force of reason to decide, once you have heard all views. Chew well, digest, then decide for yourself.

Don’t be led by the nose by so-called “pundits”. Don’t be a follower. Don’t just repeat packaged pitches. Investigate.

Don’t be intellectually lazy. Learn for yourself. THINK FOR YOURSELF.

The US President’s urgings were launched during his invitational graduation oratory, at the highly-ranked University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. The UM grads sat spellbound, many nodding affirmation, as Obama spoke out to them directly.

“What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad,” President Obama said, taking the opportunity to urge a path of individual reason, after receiving an honorary Law degree. He said, “When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us.”

Then the American president went deeper into the issues of reason, power, and the individual citizens right and duty to think — without being led by the nose. For his own part, he defended the role of government. And he invited all of today’s grads to look at the intellectual pit we are now falling into.

Government,” he said, “is the roads we drive on and the speed limits that keep us safe. It’s the men and women in the military, the inspectors in our mines, the pioneering researchers in public universities.”

The financial meltdown didn’t escape Obama’s overview: “A lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly led to the collapse of our entire economy.”

Debate and reason were the hallmarks of his advice to grads. He said, “Throwing around phrases like ’socialists’ and ‘Soviet-style takeover,’ ‘fascists’ and ‘right-wing nut’ that may grab headlines. But it closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. At its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.”

And he wasn’t asking for less criticism of himself. “Politics in America has never been for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. … If you enter the arena, you should expect to get roughed up.”

It was an amazing speech. A great American plea for vigorous debate.

Obama’s best and most surprising advice— a good citizen should seek out opposing views!

Barack Obama

Her urged that, if you’re a regular Glenn Beck repeater, you should check out the Huffington Post sometimes. Conversely, if you get your opinions second-hand from The New York Times editorial page, take a look at The Wall Street Journal.

When was the last time you heard an Obama-hater say we should look at the other side for ideas or comparions?

We congratulate the US president for encouraging dialogue and critical thought. Isnt that exactly what higher learning is all about?

For grads to participate as effective citizens, they must think for themselves— they must reinvent their own world, and fight to think their way out of the box the previous generations have built around them.

For the grads of today, the job picture is the worst in 50 years. Welcome to the real world of 2010!

Can open and critical thought dig our way out of the box? It’s not only your best chance. It’s your only chance.

Use the mind and the ability to reason that your education has armed you with.

Educate, educate, educate!

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