If not now, when? America’s unfinished agenda

I want to say today, to the students that I know how many of you have been involved in community service – that is so important. My worry is when people say community service is good but involvement in politics is unsavory. We need you. We need you involved in community service, we need you to be the really great teachers of the future, we need you to volunteer at battered womens shelters, we need you to be mentors and tutors – and many of you have been – and to help children and families battle the odds. We need you to volunteer at community health care clinics, and above and beyond whatever you do during your work days, we need you as business people and lawyers to do community work. But we also need you to care about public policy, to be citizens speaking out for better public policy and more integrity in politics, and for you to believe that government and public policy can make a difference. That politics is not just about power and money games, politics can be about the improvement of peoples lives, about lessening human suffering in our world and bringing about more peace and more justice.

And I say to you students and Swarthmore, as a political scientist and a United States senator, that in the last analysis, politics is what we create, by what we do, by what we hope for, by what we dare to imagine.

Here’s what I dare to imagine. I think this is very much in the American Friends Service tradition. As a United States senator from Minnesota, I dare to imagine, as a father and now a grandfather of three, I dare to imagine a country where I travel and meet children, and I pick up an infant and hold her in my arms. I want to be able to believe, that in the United States of America, I dare to imagine a country where every child I hold in my hands, are all god’s children, regardless of the color of their skin, regardless of whether they’re boy or girl, regardless of religion, regardless of rich or poor, regardless of urban or rural, that every child I hold in my hands, will have the same chance to reach her full potential or his full potential. That is the goodness of our country. That is the American dream.

In closing, to the graduating seniors, I say this with all sincerity. I do not believe the future will belong to those who are content with the present. I do not believe the future will belong to the cynics, or to those who stand on the sideline. The future will belong to those who have passion, and to those who are willing to make the personal commitment to make our country better. The future will belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.