By Ross Kerber
May 20 (Reuters) - Google Inc Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt challenged college graduates on Sunday to take the radical step -- at least for their generation -- of tearing their eyes away from their smartphones and computer screens.
"Take one hour a day and turn that thing off," Schmidt told graduates at Boston University, where he received an honorary degree and was applauded by an audience that had grown up relying on the technology company's search engine, e-mail and other services.
"Take your eyes off that screen and look into the eyes of the person you love. Have a conversation, a real conversation," Schmidt said.
Schmidt's advice came midway through his remarks and provided context around his broader message that electronic tools such as social media are positive forces. He said that "a distinctive feature of your new world is that you can be unique while being completely connected." That feature, he said, is a "fulfillment of the American dream."
Google executives are comfortable with broad statements, having made "Don't be evil" a business motto and battled governments over Internet freedoms.
In his remarks, Schmidt did not address policy issues or business topics such as last week's initial public offering of Facebook Inc, in many spaces a Google rival. Schmidt also offered traditional sentiments that included urging graduates to reach high and not be afraid to fail.
He also emphasized they will be armed with technology as never before. "You are emblems of the sense of possibility that will define this age," he said, adding that, "If you're awake, you're online, you're connected.
"Some of you are probably tweeting this speech right now."
On Twitter, Miles Branman, who identifies himself as a Boston University student, quoted another part of Schmidt's speech and wrote: "Listening to Eric Schmidt of Google, advising us to write the code for all of us (the world) at #BU2012 Commencement."
Also on Twitter, Boston Univesity Dean of Students Kenn Elmore wrote: "Eric Schmidt works it at #BU2012 Commencement."