MANDEL NGAN / Getty Images

President Barack Obama offered three pieces of advice for college graduates in a speech at the Barnard College commencement today.

-“Don’t just get involved: fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for your seat at the head of the table.”

-“Never underestimate the power of your example.”


And if they take his advice, he said, “I have every faith not only that you will succeed, that through you, our nation will continue to be a beacon of light onto the world.”

Obama spoke to a crowd of 594 graduating seniors at the all-female college in Manhattan, where he drew deafening applause when he mentioned his legislative achievements — especially those dealing with the expansion of rights for women and gay Americans.

“I am convinced that the women of this generation — all of you — will lead the way,” Obama said.

Noting that the Constitutional Convention convened on this day 225 years ago, Obama said that while the rights of many were not enshrined in the document, “what made this document special is that it provided space for those who have been left out of our charter to fight their way in.”

Later he mentioned Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, saying each has led to an expansion of rights for all Americans, alluding to the continuing effort to expand the rights of gay Americans to marry.

Retelling an instance where a Hispanic woman was told she shouldn’t go to college and instead should become a secretary, Obama said Hilda Solis “did end up becoming a secretary — she is America’s Secretary of Labor.”

Read more: