STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ President Bush told graduating students at Oklahoma State University Saturday that they were entering the best job market in years and he encouraged them to waste no time in finding gainful employment.
``The last few months before graduation are busy ones,'' Bush said at commencement ceremonies at the university. ``Amid all the excitement, there is one thing that has eluded a few of you: You have not had time to find a job. I speak for your parents when I say: Now is the time to start looking.
``Thanks to our strong and growing economy, you will have more jobs to choose from than previous classes and your starting salaries will be higher. And the opportunities beyond are only limited by the size of your dreams.''
Bush spoke from a covered platform on the school's football field before about 20,000 people, many wearing orange ponchos issued to the crowd. They listened quietly as light rain fell. A peaceful protest was staged outside the stadium.
``Be open to new ideas,'' Bush said. ``Be willing to take risks. Treat the degree you receive today as the first step in a lifetime of learning and your lives will be rich in purpose and reward.''
Bush spoke of the changes he has seen in technology and predicted dramatic changes in the future.
``Some of the most exciting advances in technology you will see will be in the field of energy,'' he said. ``When I graduated from school, cars drank gasoline.
``Last month in California, I saw cars powered by hydrogen that use no gasoline and emit no pollution. Within your lifetime, advances in technology will make our air cleaner and our cars more efficient. The gasoline engine will seem as antiquated as the rotary phone and the black-and-white TV.''
Bush arrived at Vance Air Force Base on Air Force One shortly before 9 a.m. CDT and gave a President's Volunteer Service Award to Tulsa native William ``B.J.'' O'Connor, an Oklahoma State junior, for working on the Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts. The president then boarded the Marine One helicopter for the flight to Stillwater.
Jamie Ebberle, an accounting student who was one of about 3,000 graduating students attending the ceremony, said she was glad to be able to see the president, even though the event was more complicated than previous commencements at the university.
``It's a little more hectic,'' she said. Security prevented one of her family members from bringing a video camera into the event.
Brian Murphy, who was graduating with an MBA degree, said he also was pleased the president would be speaking, even though some of his Democratic friends had joked him about having the Republican president speak at his commencement.
``It's an honor to sit before a president and listen,'' he said.
Other presidential visits on Oklahoma State's campus include Richard Nixon, who visited in 1974 in the midst of the Watergate scandal, and George H.W. Bush, who delivered a foreign policy address in 1990.
About 250 demonstrators held signs outside the stadium as a band played anti-Bush songs. One protester held a sign that read, ``Worst President Ever.''
Oklahoma State University gave Bush honorary doctorates in agriculture economics and political science.
Sherri Martin came with nine family members to see her daughter graduate. They brought blankets and rain coats and paper towels to wipe off the wet bleachers.
Martin said she's a fan of President Bush and was eager to hear him speak but mostly came to support her daughter.
``It's been five years,'' she said of her daughter's time at Oklahoma State, ``so we're excited about today.''