By David Montero, Lori Basheda, and Greg Hardesty
President Barack Obama challenged graduates of UC Irvine to fight cynicism and climate change during his commencement speech at Angel Stadium on Saturday, fueling them with the inspirational word that defined his 2008 presidential campaign and resonated with youth who helped sweep him into office.
“Cynicism is a choice,” Obama said. “Hope is a better choice.”
The nearly 30-minute address before a crowd of about 30,000 pushed ideas unveiled in his recent Climate Action Plan, which seeks to cut carbon emissions from power producing plants by 30 percent to 2005 levels.
He also made news, announcing a $1 billion fund to help communities prepare for climate change problems.
He urged the nearly 6,700 graduates and thousands of their supporters to not feel “overwhelmed” by people who deny the existence of climate change. Obama, who drew a parallel to President John F. Kennedy’s proposal to land on the moon during a 1962 speech at Rice University, took a few political jabs at those in Congress who question the science of global warming. He pointed out that one member of Congress told him climate change is a result of “dinosaur flatulence.”
“When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long. But nobody ignored the science,” Obama said. “I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.”
The challenge of climate change resonates most deeply with the generation that graduated Saturday at Angel Stadium. A Gallup Survey found that 78 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 believe climate change is real and will have an effect on the earth during their lifetimes.