Jerry Brown tells grads ‘you can make change’

California Gov. Jerry Brown urged UC Berkeley graduates, in Monday’s political-science graduation ceremony, to become active citizens to solve societal problems – from war to banking-system breakdown, political gridlock and climate change.

Excerpts of comments by Chancellor Birgeneau and Gov. Jerry Brown (6 min.) For Brown’s full speech, click here.

“It is good that you took political science, because politics and the political are desperately in need of fresh minds – minds that actually understand some science, that appreciate knowledge and clear thinking,” Brown told the more than 350 graduates, their families and friends assembled at the Greek Theatre.

Recalling his own commencement exercises at Berkeley 52 years ago, on a similarly sunny day, Brown praised the graduates’ extensive preparation to take an active role in improving the world.  “You have the skills and knowledge and a sense of the good. You can make change,” he said. “Soon you will go into business or government or academia or perhaps a non-profit. Many have told you ‘get ready for the pressures of the marketplace, for global competition.’ I tell you ‘get ready to be an active citizen.'”

The governor observed that many students already are well on their way. He commended them for their active role in voter-registration drives and campaigning last fall, on behalf of California’s Proposition 30, which raised sales taxes, as well as income taxes on the state’s wealthier residents, to help support public education.

“For an important moment, democracy came alive,” Brown said. “The power of ordinary people, joining together, made a profound difference.”

Brown was introduced by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who thanked the governor for keeping public education a state priority, despite challenging budgetary times; for signing California’s Dream Act to help young immigrants; and for advocating for Prop. 30, which has helped to prevent further state funding cuts for public education, he noted.

More commencement coverage:  At Convocation 2013, Apple co-founder hails Berkeley’s ‘human values’