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Courting women, Obama gives commencement speech at Barnard College

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President Obama urged young women Monday to strive for leadership positions and become more politically involved. Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP President Barack Obama is seen on stage before delivering the commence address at Barnard College, Monday, May 14, 2012, in New York.

“You are now poised to make this the century when women shape not only their own destiny, but the destiny of this nation and this world,” Obama said in a commencement speech. “Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.”

Obama made the remarks in an address to nearly 600 female graduates of Barnard College in New York, honing his message to women in an election year when their issues have been front and center. The graduates gave him a rousing welcome and punctuated his speech with cheers and applause.

The president personally requested the speaking appearance in February, and Barnard President Debora Spar made room by asking New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, who had been scheduled to speak, to step aside. Obama graduated from the affiliated Columbia College, located across the street, and his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, attended Barnard.

After his address to Barnard graduates, Obama was scheduled to tape an appearance on the ABC talk show “The View,” whose five female co-hosts will interview him for a segment that will air Tuesday.

The Obama campaign has targeted women voters heavily in the wake of national debates over contraception and working mothers, and the president enjoys a wide lead over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney among that group in national polls.

Later Monday, Obama will attend two campaign fundraisers in New York City, including one hosted by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and openly gay singer Ricky Martin. That comes in the wake of the president’s announcement last week that he supports same-sex marriage.

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