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May 28, 2014. By

At commencement ceremonies across the United States, American leaders are giving graduates advice for their future. They’re also talking about the biggest issues of our time and the importance of working with international partners like the United Nations to build a more peaceful, prosperous world. Here are seven must-read quotes:

President Obama at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point:

1. “Likewise, the U.N. provides a platform to keep the peace in states torn apart by conflict. Now we need to make sure that those nations who provide peacekeepers have the training and equipment to actually keep the peace, so that we can prevent the type of killing we’ve seen in Congo and Sudan. We are going to deepen our investment in countries that support these peacekeeping missions, because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way. It’s a smart investment. It’s the right way to lead.”

2. “America’s support for democracy and human rights goes beyond idealism – it’s a matter of national security. Democracies are our closest friends and are far less likely to go to war. Free and open economies perform better and become markets for our goods. Respect for human rights is an antidote to instability, and the grievances that fuel violence and terror.”

3. “Now, there are a lot of folks, a lot of skeptics, who often downplay the effectiveness of multilateral action. For them, working through international institutions like the U.N. or respecting international law is a sign of weakness. I think they’re wrong.”

U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power at the University of Vermont:

4. “But the truth is, away from the headlines, change is happening for the good, and it is happening fast. In the past quarter century, the United States, the United Nations, and our many partners have helped to reduce extreme poverty worldwide by more than fifty percent and nearly cut in half both the number of women who die in childbirth and the number of children who perish before the age of five.”

5. “We do not have to choose – and we cannot afford to choose – between here and there. We are not the world’s policemen and we should not be the world’s policemen. But even in a world of limited resources, we cannot afford to choose between educating our children in America and supporting efforts to take on those who would kidnap hundreds of girls in Nigeria. We cannot afford to choose between fighting the scourge of heroin addiction here in Vermont and ending the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. We cannot afford to choose between providing healthcare here at home and leading the global effort to rid the world of HIV/AIDS. We are America. We act and we lead. The stronger we are at home, the stronger will be leading abroad. And the more peaceful and prosperous the world is, the better off you and the rest American people will be over time.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at Yale College Class Day:

6. “In 1966 I suggested, ‘an excess of isolation had led to an excess of interventionism.’ Today we hear a different tune from some in Congress and even on some campuses and we face the opposite concern. We cannot allow a hangover from the excessive interventionism of the last decade to lead now to an excess of isolationism in this decade.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at Boston College:

7. “And in a shrinking world, we can’t measure our success just by what we achieve as Americans for Americans, but also by the security and shared prosperity that we build with our partners all over world.”

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