When exactly did it become hip to buy American again?

Until he became CEO of General Motors last summer, Dan Akerson says he favored and drove BMWs -- long the choice of many hip people.

The U.S. Naval Academy graduate also says it was an honor and his patriotic duty to take over GM and help steer the automaker’s post-bankruptcy recovery.

In a weekend commencement address at Bryant University in Rhode Island, Akerson distilled his vision of the role of purpose, service and leadership to the class of 2011. He also offered other bits of advice from his career that includes stints as a naval officer, head of a phone company that took on AT&T, and chief of another company that invented digital HDTV.

“Learn from your mistakes; don’t be afraid of new ideas, tell the truth and play by the rules. If you think nobody cares -- try missing a couple of payments.”

And his final words of advice: “It’s cool, again, to buy American.”

It was a not-so-subtle way to sell a car or crossover.

Akerson didn’t acknowledge it, but GM is on track to reclaim the title as world’s biggest automaker this year from a wounded Toyota.

So it must be cool to think about what it’s going to be like shepherding the No. 1 automaker just two years after it went bankrupt.

And any extra sales GM can muster these days is just more icing on the cake.

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