Obama reminded the class of 2012 about the support the city received nearly one year earlier when a powerful tornado ripped a 13-mile path through the area, killing 161 people. A Japanese man flew to Joplin to assist as payback for American aide after last year's tsunami, and a Colorado father of three drove to Missouri with a chainsaw to help with cleanup, Obama recalled.
"There are so many good people in the world. There is such a decency, a bigness of spirit, in this country of ours. Remember that. Remember what people did here," Obama said. "And like the man from Japan who came to Joplin, make sure to pay it forward in your own life."
Obama encouraged the students to embody the same spirit that helped rebuild the city to help rebuild America.
"In fact, my deepest hope for all of you is that as you begin this new chapter in your life, you will bring that spirit of Joplin to every place you travel and everything you do. You can serve as a reminder that we're not meant to walk this road alone; that we're not expected to face down adversity by ourselves. We need each other. We're important to each other. We're stronger together than we are on our own."