PISCATAWAY, N.J., May 15 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama rewarded Rutgers University's persistence with a commencement address Sunday.
"I came here because you asked," Obama told more than 50,000 people in High Point Solutions Stadium on Rutgers' Busch Campus in Piscataway. "You are the first to launch a three-year campaign . . . I even got three notes from the grandmother of your student body president. And I have to say, that really sealed the deal."
Obama was the first sitting president to speak at Rutgers, the nation's eighth-oldest university at 250 years. Rutgers had worked for years with New Jersey lawmakers since 2013 to secure the president to speak in honor of the school's milestone anniversary.
"Today, he chose you," Greg Brown, head of the Rutgers board of governors, told the 10,500 cheering graduates. "He chose Rutgers."
Unlike previous years, Rutgers students were limited to one ticket to the graduation ceremony for themselves and three guest tickets.
Some guests and graduates missed the start of the ceremony because they were delayed in extensive traffic jams or overcrowded shuttle buses trying to get to the stadium.
Obama praised the diversity at Rutgers.
Dressed in scarlet red Rutgers robes, Obama was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree.
He spoke against anti-intellectualism in politics.
"If you were listening to today's political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from," Obama said. "In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue."
Without mentioning presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by name, Obama criticized the candidate's calls to build a wall at the Mexican border and ban Muslims from entering the country.
Those policies are contrary to the nation's history as a melting pot, Obama said.
"That's how we became America. Why would we want to stop it now?" Obama said. "Can't do it."
He told the audience that: "I'm not going to spend the remainder of my time telling you exactly how you're going to make the world better -- you'll figure it out."
Obama granted an interview with the Rutgers University student paper last week.
Sitting presidents rarely grant interviews to student newspapers, but this one with The Daily Targum, came about after its editor, Dan Corey, made the bold request when he was face-to-face with the president last month with fellow college reports at a White House press briefing.
Sunday's address was the second of three commencement speeches Obama is scheduled to deliver during his final graduation season as president. Earlier this month, Obama told graduates at historically black Howard University to become more engaged in society.
The president will also speak on June 2 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.