HAMPTON, Virginia (Reuters) - President Barack Obama told college graduates on Sunday the era of the iPod and the Xbox has not always been good for the cause of a strong education.
Obama made the point in a commencement speech to more than 1,000 graduates and thousands of their family and friends gathered on the football field at Hampton University, a historically black college in southeastern Virginia.
Obama said today’s college graduates are coming of age at a time of great difficulty for the United States. They face a tough economy for jobs, two wars and a 24/7 media environment not always dedicated to the truth, he said.
Added to the mix are the distractions offered by popular electronic devices that entertain millions of Americans.
“With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,” Obama said.
“All of this is not only putting new pressures on you. It is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy,” Obama said.
Wearing a colorful ceremonial robe, Obama stressed the importance of a good education to adapt to what he called “a period of breathtaking change.”
Obama, the United States’ first African-American president, said black students face more difficult headwinds than others and are typically outperformed by their white classmates.
He urged the Hampton graduates to be role models and mentors to younger people to teach them the importance of education and personal responsibility.
Obama also said an education can help people sift through the many voices “clamoring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio” and help them find the truth.
“Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience with that myself,” said Obama.