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June 17, 2014

President Obama’s UC Irvine Speech Paints Hopeful Future for our Climate

President Barack Obama delivered a commencement speech Saturday to graduates at UC Irvine highlighting the need for climate action.  Calling climate disruption “one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet faces,” the President retained hope for tackling this crisis even in the face of some climate claims that are totally out of line with reality.

President Obama did not let climate deniers go unshamed.  Pointing to the moon landing as a parallel, the President offered the following sentiment:

“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.  I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.”

The President continued, criticizing those politicians who stand in the way of action on the climate crisis by trying to excuse themselves from discussions on the grounds that they are not scientists.

“Now, I’m not a scientist either, but we’ve got some really good ones at NASA,” President Obama remarked of that agency’s warnings about the ongoing crisis, as he called for bipartisan action to address climate change.  

“After all, it was Republicans who used to lead the way on new ideas to protect our environment,” the President said, citing Teddy Roosevelt’s national parks, Richard Nixon’s Clean Air Act, and George H.W. Bush’s 1990 statement on man-made climate change.

Harkening back to these days where climate science reigned across the aisle, President Obama declared that the American people possess the ingenuity to dig themselves out of this mess -- particularly young people like those graduating in Irvine.

“You’re going to have to push those of us in power to do what this American moment demands.  You’ve got to educate your classmates, and colleagues, and family members and fellow citizens, and tell them what’s at stake.  You’ve got to push back against the misinformation, and speak out for facts, and organize others around your vision for the future,” he said.

Referencing the Fossil Free movement, President Obama told the audience, “You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.”

And if President Obama -- the president who has been faced with the most anti-environmental House of all time -- believes we can achieve meaningful action on climate, then its far too soon to abandon all hope.  

As he reminded UC Irvine graduates, “Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or started a business, or fed a young mind, or sent men into space.  Cynicism is a choice.  Hope is a better choice.”

--John Doherty, Sierra Club Political Team


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