By Louis Sahagun
President Obama on Saturday challenged the 2014 graduating class of UC Irvine to build on the legacy of the Orange County campus, which was among the first to show that man-made chemicals were harming the atmosphere.
Speaking to more than 30,000 in attendance at a commencement ceremony at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Obama urged the graduates to combat global warming and not be swayed by “a stubborn status quo, people determined to stymie your efforts to bring about change.”
President Obama makes the sign for anteater — the UC Irvine mascot — and shouts, “Zot, zot” with graduates Jacqueline Rodriguez, from left, Jessica Pratt and Michelle McCann at the school’s commencement at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
“When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it would be too expensive, that it would take too long,” he said. “But nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anyone saying the moon wasn’t there, or that it was made of cheese.”
In a broadside to congressional climate-change deniers, he said, “There are some who duck the question by saying, ‘Hey, I’m not a scientist.’ Let me translate that for you: What that means is, ‘I accept that man-made climate change is real, but if I admit it, I’ll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot.'”
His remarks were frequently met with boisterous applause and whistles, and several standing ovations.
Far from being a job-killer, tackling global warming will spur innovation and economic opportunities, much as the space race launched in the Kennedy era did, the president said.
“We need scientists to design new fuels,” he said. “We need farmers to help grow them. 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.
“We can do this,” he exhorted the assembled students, while also speaking to the legions of other graduates streaming from U.S. universities this month to start their careers. “We can make a difference. You can make a difference. And the sooner you do, the better.”