News / USA

Obama Gives Michigan Graduation Speech

U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at the University of Michigan Saturday, calling on graduates to participate in public life and improve the quality of public debate.

President Obama encouraged graduates to stay informed and get involved in political issues in order to keep democracy alive. He said the focus should be on creating a "smarter, better government" that gives people the tools they need to succeed. He also called for civility in public debate and a move away from partisan bickering and name-calling.

Earlier Saturday, in the weekly Republican address, Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra said Mr. Obama's visit to Michigan would give him the chance to see what Hoekstra called, "the painful plight" of the state's people. Michigan currently has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm thanked Mr. Obama at the graduation ceremony for the steps he has taken to create more jobs. She said 90,000 people are working in Michigan as a result of the $787-billion stimulus plan the president pushed through Congress last year.

In his weekly broadcast address Saturday, Mr. Obama tackled the issue of campaign finance, calling for reforms to counter a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to spend unlimited money in political campaigns.

Mr. Obama said Congress should consider new measures that prevent companies and other special interests from "gaining even more clout" in Washington.

Mr. Obama proposed reforms that force political campaign committees to reveal their sources of funding.  He said whenever a corporation pays for a campaign ad, a major figure from that corporation should appear in the ad and claim responsibility for it. He also called for restrictions on campaign spending by foreign companies and foreign nationals.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January struck down long-standing limits on corporate spending in political campaigns.  The opinion signed by a majority of justices stated that corporations have the same right to free speech as citizens, and that previous campaign finance laws were unconstitutional.

Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was also scheduled to give a speech in Michigan Saturday, about 100 kilometers from President Obama, in the town of Clarkston.

Palin has been on a speaking tour throughout the U.S. as she promotes her book.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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