POLITICS

Michelle Obama Encourages Oberlin Graduates To Seek Out 'The Most Contentious, Polarized, Gridlocked Places'

05/25/2015 02:17 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2015

While receiving an honorary degree at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, on Monday, first lady Michelle Obama encouraged students to get involved in civic life and "run to, and not away from, the noise."

"Today, I want to urge you to actively seek out the most contentious, polarized, gridlocked places you can find," Obama said in her address. "Because so often, throughout our history, those have been the places where progress really happens –- the places where minds are changed, lives transformed, where our great American story unfolds."

Obama noted there would be challenges in getting involved in civic duty, citing the difficulties faced by activists like Martin Luther King, Jr., President Franklin D. Roosevelt and others.

"Here at Oberlin, most of the time you’re probably surrounded by folks who share your beliefs. But out in the real world, there are plenty of people who think very differently than you do, and they hold their opinions just as passionately," Obama said. "So if you want to change their minds, if you want to work with them to move this country forward, you can’t just shut them out. You have to persuade them, and you have to compromise with them."

Obama also paid tribute to fallen members of the military during her speech, which was given on Memorial Day.

"I also want to take a moment on this Memorial Day to pay tribute to all of the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives so that we could sit here today, at peace, with rights and freedoms that others around the world can only dream of," Obama said. "I am so proud to honor these American heroes today –- and every day –- for their extraordinary service to our nation."

Clarification: Language has been amended to indicate that Obama attended commencement exercises to receive an honorary degree, and did not give the commencement address itself, which was delivered by Marian Wright Edelman.

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