BERKELEY Of all the speeches politicians give, one of the most difficult may be the commencement address, given as it is to an audience that is often hot and tired and preoccupied with its own excitement or anxiety about the future.
Leaving the podium on Monday at UC Berkeley, Gov. Jerry Brown said he thought he might have given a commencement speech in Santa Clara when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, but he was sure this was the first one for which he had prepared remarks.
A script is appropriate for such a sober occasion, he said.
Brown, addressing graduates of the university's political science department, told the students that climate change is a greater threat to their future than any number of other problems, from the home mortgage crisis and student debt to growing inequality and war abroad.
"Of course the changes in our climate are not happening in political time," said Brown, who has made climate change a focus of his administration. "By Twitter standards, the pace is very slow but inexorable and, most troubling, soon to be irreversible."
The Democratic governor told the graduates, "That's the world you face. But you have the skills and the knowledge and the sense of the good. You can make change."
If a script was appropriate, it also kept Brown brief. The crowd applauded when he said at the end, "Go, Bears!"
Brown, 75, graduated from Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in classics in 1961. His father, Pat Brown, was governor at the time.
"I don't recall what anyone said," the current governor said. "But, I did feel some unease as my father began his short talk. At that point in my life, my head was full of clean abstractions and political talk sounded a bit discordant, a little too obvious. And it was kind of embarrassing that my father was handing me my degree."
Brown said no one knew until he graduated that he was the governor's son.
"And, by the way," Brown said, "he wasn't that popular at that moment in time."
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.