U.S. President Barack Obama urged a group of high school graduates to retain "the power of community" that is helping their small town recover from a deadly storm that struck exactly one year ago.
Obama traveled to Joplin, Missouri Monday, the day before the one year anniversary of the tornado that devastated the town of 50,000 people and killed 161 residents, including two Joplin High School students.
Repeating the constant theme "you are from Joplin," the president called on the students to take the spirit that is helping the city recover from the disaster and use it to help rebuild the country as it faces tough economic times.
"You're the ones who will help build an economy where every child can count on a good education. You're the ones that's gonna make sure this country is a place where everybody who is willing to put in the effort can find a job that supports a family," he said. "You're the ones that are going to make sure we control our own energy future and we lead the world in science and technology and innovation. America only succeeds when we all pitch in and pull together, and I'm counting on you to be leaders in that effort because you're from Joplin and you've already defied the odds."
Joplin High graduating senior Derek Carter, who plans to study finance and economic in college, told said after the ceremony that Obama's appearance reaffirmed the country's commitment to help his town rebuild.
"It was very special for us all," said Carter. "I think it kind of shows that the nation is still caring about Joplin, they are still looking at us and they want to support us and so to have the president come back and speak at our graduation is huge for everyone."
The tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011 was the deadliest in the U.S. in six decades. The building that housed Joplin High School was among those destroyed in the storm. Classes for the graduating seniors were held in an empty department store in a nearly mall.