Monday, May 18, 2009

Michelle at UC MERCED

While her husband faced a mixture of criticism, rejection and warm welcomes at Notre Dame's commencement ceremonies, Michelle Obama spoke to the 500 graduates at UCMERCED. It was a beautiful love affair!

Yahoo reports the following:
"The student body had launched a full-court press last winter to lure Obama to UC Merced, sending her thousands of letters and Valentines and posting come-on-over videos online. Their message was that the 2,718 widely diverse, mostly modest-income students who attend UC's newest campus are fervent about public service, and that she and the president embody the feisty can-do attitude they believe they bring to their own pursuit to uplift themselves and those around them.

On Saturday, as her ascendance to the stage brought the class leaping to its feet, screaming and pumping fists in the air, Obama's beaming smile and wave indicated that she had taken their pleas fully to heart.

The first lady's 29-minute commencement speech, delivered to the parents, visitors and students with a forceful, building crescendo that hit climaxes akin to a preacher's sermon, couldn't have fallen on more receptive ears."

In her speech, she told them to devote their energies to public service. "We need your ideas, graduates. We need your resourcefulness. We need your inventiveness. And as the students who helped build this school, I ask you, make your legacy a lasting one. Dream big, think broadly about your life, and please make giving back to your community a part of that vision."

I found some of the down side of entertaining the First Lady in the LA Times.
"But Obama's presence also brought hassles and expenses. Because of security concerns, the audience had to show up hours before the ceremony in the campus' grassy outdoor amphitheater and sit without shade as temperatures reached the mid-90s. Eight people were hospitalized for heat-related problems, a campus spokesperson said. About 80 others were treated at the site.

The usually placid campus, which is surrounded by cow pastures, had an army of police and Secret Service agents, including snipers positioned on rooftops. The school, facing a $700,000 bill for such items as Jumbotron screens and extra guards, has raised about $160,000 in donations.

Her UC Merced speech will be Michelle Obama's only college commencement address this year. Adding to the unusual choice of Merced, she usually does not participate in Saturday public events because she tries to devote the day to her daughters, her aides said. So she returned to Washington before diplomas were awarded and granted no interviews."

Before graduation, The Press-Telegram, Long Beach, CA detailed some of the $700,000 cost of the invitation to the First Lady and questioned the wisdom of the university's action.

"Now university administrators and professors, local and state elected officials and thousands more are seeking invitations for a chance to see the first lady up close. It's a very tough ticket to get, and this event will put the newest UC campus on high-profile display.

UC officials say some corporations are helping to pay for the extravaganza. AT&T, Educational Employees Credit Union and Kaiser Permanente are donating about $80,000. The university is looking for other sponsors to help with the cost.

When you have a member of the first family visiting, the security costs go up dramatically. That is appropriate, and required. These costs will be borne by the University of California police force, the California Highway Patrol, the Merced County sheriff, Merced police. And, of course, the Secret Service. The cost for the university police alone is expected to run about $90,000. Metal detectors will add another $5,000.
The largest cost - at $300,000 - is expected to be for an audio/visual company to broadcast the first lady's speech to the thousands gathered downtown and in other nearby areas. That bill seems a bit excessive to us.

There's no doubt that this is going to be a big day for the university, and the entire region. But these are tough economic times - UC students are being asked to pay higher tuition to help balance the UC budget - and they call for wise spending.

Some of the improvements, such as new grass and landscaping, will last well beyond the first lady's visit. But $700,000 is a lot of money, and UC officials might consider stepping back and asking whether all this commencement spending makes sense in the current economic environment."

Based on the aforementioned costs, is it any wonder that the rich have opportunities that less wealthy entities can't enjoy? All things aside, the graduating class of UCMERCED had an experience that they will never forget.

"If you want to be happy, set a goal that
commands your thoughts, liberates your
energy, and inspires your hopes."
- Andrew Carnegie

Sources: as cited

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