(CNN) - Dream big and give back, Michelle Obama told the first graduating class of University of California-Merced on Saturday in her first commencement speech as the first lady.
"Remember that you are blessed - remember that in exchange for those blessings you must give something back," Obama told the sprawling, cheering crowd at the university. "You must reach back and pull someone up. You must bend down and let someone else stand on your shoulders so that they can see a brighter future."
The trip to the state university system's newest and smallest campus was her first trip to California since her husband, President Barack Obama, took office.
The fledgling school, which opened in 2005 and has a 2,700-member student body, worked hard to get the first lady's attention, writing letters to Michelle Obama, her office, her friends and family, according to the White House. They even started a "Dear Michelle" Facebook campaign that sent out some 900 Valentine's Day cards to her.
The first lady accepted the invitation in March, tapping University of California-Merced as her only stop on this year's collegiate-commencement circuit.
Obama has also agreed to speak at the Washington Math and Science Technical High School on June 3.
"A few people may be wondering why did I choose the University of California-Merced to deliver my first commencement speech as first lady," said
Obama, in full academic dress. "Let me tell you something, the answer is simple: You inspired me."
Editor's note: On CNN's "State of the Union," host and chief national correspondent John King goes outside the Beltway to report on the issues affecting communities across the country.
SELMA, Alabama (CNN) - To cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma is to share a stage with history. And these days, it is to come face-to-face with a bleak present.
Storefront after storefront is closed, and many of the buildings in the famous photos from the days of the historic March 1965 events have fallen into disrepair.
"It is very depressing," Selma Mayor George P. Evans tells us during an evening walk down Broad Street in downtown. "People are not buying. People are not spending. Businesses are going out of business."
This is the heart of Alabama's "Black Belt," and Selma is a reminder that a recession that has punished so many across America has hit hardest in places that were already struggling.
"A double whammy," Evans says. "It does seem to be those cities with the largest population of minorities that has taken the biggest hit."
(CNN) – University of Notre Dame senior Emily Toates, like many in the Catholic faith, is angry over her school's decision to give President Obama an honorary degree at this weekend's commencement.
She's doing something about it: skipping the event.
"I do not feel comfortable going and celebrating him as the university hands him an honorary degree - in a sense honoring his policies," Toates said.
On Sunday, Obama will become one of many sitting U.S. presidents to deliver the commencement address at the Catholic institution. The honor comes much to the chagrin of anti-abortion groups and Catholics protesting the president's pro-choice, pro-stem cell research views.
ND Response, an anti-abortion student group that Toates is working with, will boycott the graduation ceremony in protest. Other anti-abortion groups have started petitions against Obama's appearance and have plans to protest his visit to the South Bend, Indiana, campus.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-Louisiana, said in the Republican weekly address that it is his party's desire to work with President Obama and congressional Democrats on reforming the country's health care system.
"Let me be clear, Republicans want to work with President Obama and other Democrats to ensure that every American has access to affordable, high-quality health coverage," he said. "Despite our differences, we are convinced there are areas of common-sense agreement on health care reform among Republicans and Democrats. This issue is just too important to let partisanship or blind ideology get in the way. Let’s all work together to do the right thing for the American people."
Boustany, a doctor and member of the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group, said the GOP is "convinced" that there are some areas offering potential for common ground on tackling rising health care costs.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – In his weekly address, President Obama addressed the challenges of growing a "clean energy economy, reforming the healthcare system and laying a new foundation for the long-term strength of our economy."
"For the first time, utility companies and corporate leaders are joining, not opposing, environmental advocates and labor leaders to create a new system of clean energy initiatives that will help unleash a new era of growth and prosperity," Obama said.
Obama added: "But we know that our families, our economy, and our nation itself will not succeed in the 21st century if we continue to be held down by the weight of rapidly rising health care costs and a broken health care system. That’s why I met with representatives of insurance and drug companies, doctors and hospitals, and labor unions who are pledging to do their part to reduce health care costs."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The State Department has revised a report that erroneously pegged the salaries of some foreigners working abroad at U.S. embassies and other places at less than $1 per day.
It's not $1 a day, it's $4 a day, the inspector general's office said Friday, two days after the report was released.
"We were given that information erroneously," inspector general spokesman Tom Burgess told CNN. "We know it is between three dollars and four dollars a day."
Apparently a currency conversion error was to blame, he said.
Other details of the report remain in place, including claims that some lower grade foreign nationals who work for the department earn so little that they must cut back to one meal a day and send their children out to peddle on the streets.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama announced Saturday that his choice for U.S. ambassador to China is moderate Republican Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who expressed some surprise at the appointment.
A national co-chairman of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, Huntsman said he didn't expected "to be called into action by the person who beat us.
"But I grew up understanding that the most basic responsibility one has is service to country," the 49-year-old governor said at the White House, just after Obama's announcement.
"When the president of the United States asks you to step up and serve in a capacity like this, that to me is the end of the conversation and the beginning of the obligation to rise to the challenge."
The Senate must confirm his appointment.
Huntsman, who is in his final term as Utah's governor, is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and is a former trade representative and ambassador to Singapore.
His family has an adopted daughter from China. The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper has reported that Huntsman has performed Mormon missionary work in Taiwan.
President Barack Obama bends over so the son of a White House staff member can pat his head during a family visit to the Oval Office May 8, 2009. The youngster wanted to see if the President's haircut felt like his own. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).