President Barack Obama, hinting at his own political challenges, gave student leaders a pep talk Thursday, telling them them not be dissuaded by setbacks.
Obama surprised five student winners of the White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge with an unscheduled drop-by visit, giving them an abbreviated version of a graduation speech.
"It's been said that if you're not idealistic when you're young, then you've got problems, and if you stay idealistic when you're old you've got problems" he said. "I'm a big believer that you can actually stay idealistic throughout your life."
But Obama also echoed his cautionary campaign appeals to supporters, many of whom were drawn to his 2008 message of hope and change and have been disillusioned by his partial successes.
"There'll be times where the change that you were hoping for doesn't come as fast as you'd like," he said.
During campaign appearances, Obama often lists accomplishments as examples of change that he has been able to bring about. But he also quotes former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's admonition that politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose.
Still, he told the students Thursday, that they should not lose their belief that they can make a difference. If not, he added, "then I think you've shrunk your own horizons.
"There is a poverty of ambition if you don't think that you can make a difference in this world."