"You're graduating in a time of great difficulty for America and the world," Obama told graduates of the traditionally black university in Hampton, Va. "You're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't rank all that high on the truth meter."
The graduates are entering the job market during a period of heightened international competition in an economy still trying to rebound from a devastating recession in a country fighting two wars.
"It's a period of breathtaking change, like few others in our history," Obama said. "We can't stop these changes, but we can adapt to them. And education is what can allow us to do so. It can fortify you, as it did earlier generations, to meet the tests of your own time."
An education prepares graduates to compete in a global market and readies them to be citizens, Obama said.
"With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who's telling the truth and who's not," Obama said. "Let's face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I've had some experience with that myself."
Fortunately, he said, graduates have the tools to navigate the rough waters.
"Your education has honed your research abilities, sharpened your analytical powers and given you a context for understanding the world," Obama said.
While an education can prepare people to face a tough economy, the tests of citizenship and the challenges of the day, Obama said, it's "a stubborn insistence on pursuing a dream" that "makes us Americans."