OGDEN — Weber State University graduates were reminded of tough economic times but encouraged not to give up hope during commencement ceremonies Friday morning.

The 3,500 graduates, bedecked in flowing black and purple robes, were encouraged to be the leaders of the future by fellow graduate Aimil Aziz, who told them today's world is vastly different than the one inherited by their fathers and grandfathers.

"The whole world is looking for leadership to lead us into the future," the Iranian-born political science graduate said. "Like always, the world looks to America to provide that leadership.

"If we are open-minded about the differences we have and work on what we hold in common, then I have no doubt we not only leave behind a more secure and prosperous America than we inherit, but we also leave behind a more peaceful world," Aziz said to roaring applause.

Keynote speaker Jerry H. Peterson, who runs an Ogden-based Hertz rental car franchise, told graduates and their families that what makes a difference in the workplace is how well you deal with others.

"Everything that is good happens because of people," Peterson said.

He also encouraged the graduates to become involved in politics by carrying the banner of capitalism.

"I have faith that collectively you'll get it right, and the world will be better off because you cared," Peterson said.

In response to comments about the dire economic situation in the country, many graduates expressed fear.

"It's scary," said McKenzie Wood, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology. "I'm really hoping to get a new job, but no one is hiring right now. It's sad that (Weber State) has prepared us so well but then there are no opportunities out there for us."

In contrast, computer science and electronics graduate Ty Chaston said he had multiple job offers upon graduation. Chaston will soon begin a career in information security at the Bank of Utah, he said.

West Valley City resident Wesley Amoca, wearing chains of leaves and orchids with his gown, is also moving forward. Like many Weber State students, Amoca worked full time while studying and plans to continue with his current company, he said.

"The way things are, I'm not looking to move," Amoca said. "But I could be someday."

E-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com