He devoted 55% of the speech to reminding the audience of his administration’s work on addressing the nation’s drug problem and its progress in relations with Moscow.

In his remarks at Miami Dade College in 2007, president George W Bush remarked extensively on the successes of the class of 2007, and told stories of the graduates themselves.

He used these stories, including that of immigrant Gwen Belfon, a single mother from Trinidad and Tobago, to highlight his administration’s work on immigration reform. He said she and other graduates were helping to “…maintain the promise of the United States of America,” which “…requires that we remain an open and welcoming society.”

Bush said, “Over the years, America’s ability to assimilate new immigrants has set us apart from other nations.” He used the opportunity to push Congress to advance his legislation in service to this “promise” of America.

Address to the graduates

In a commencement address at Notre Dame in 2009, Barack Obama continued his push for cooperation and unity—a message he had made a centerpiece of his campaign. He said:

Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and greater understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.

This emphasis on unity was especially noteworthy due to controversy surrounding Obama’s position on abortion and his speech to the Catholic university.

With president Obama’s second term wrapping up next year, the commencement addresses he gives between now and 2016 are likely to focus on the graduates themselves and the world they’ll be entering. Remarks on May 10, 2015, in South Dakota have proven this to be true so far.

President Obama’s message to graduates of Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota, was much more reflective in tone and focused more on the graduates themselves. He shared stories of graduates in attendance, and said,

So that’s why I came here today—to this little tiny school, in this little tiny town. I didn’t come here to inspire you. I came here because you, the graduates, inspire me. That’s why I came here.

He also used the occasion to tout his administration’s proposal for free community college tuition for all Americans, saying,

So as a country, we can’t afford to let any striving American be priced out of the education they need to get ahead. For everybody willing to work for it, we need to make two years of community college as free and universal as high school is today. It’s the right thing to do.

President Obama has one more graduation season left. If past is prologue, we’ll hear more reflection and less stump speech from this commander-in-chief, too.

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