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Posted on Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

Governor tells University of Michigan graduates to be 'explorers,' have a mission

By Ryan J. Stanton


Gov. Rick Snyder (second from right) sits with journalist Eugene Robinson (far left), billionaire real estate executive and U-M donor Stephen Ross and U-M President Mary Sue Coleman at University of Michigan Commencement ceremonies Saturday in Michigan Stadium.

Melanie Maxwell |

Gov. Rick Snyder set politics aside today as he addressed the University of Michigan's 2011 graduating class and shared his personal story as a student at the university.

Arriving on U-M's campus in January 1976, Snyder, from the small town of Battle Creek, admitted he was probably one of the least worldly people around.

"The first week I was there, a number of my friends I had met said, 'let's go get a fragel,' so we went to the Bagel Factory and I had my first fragel," he said, adding he didn't want to admit he had never even had a regular bagel before. "I didn't know what a bagel was."

Snyder recalled his first living situation in a three-person dorm in West Quad. One of his roommates was a junior who managed to get himself kicked out of university housing for "a lack of social and moral behavior," Snyder said, "and that's the nice way to put it."

His other roommate was a freshman. Snyder said he's convinced that roommate only made it through the first few years of his engineering studies.

"Engineering was not his passion and love," Snyder said. "His true passion and love was botany, and I believe that was based on the fact he had a significant plantation in our room."

Snyder said he "almost didn't make it," but he went on to earn three degrees at U-M by the age of 23, including a bachelor's degree in general studies, an MBA and a law degree.

Snyder said he completed a work study, became a resident adviser, taught classes in the business school and thoroughly enjoyed his time at Michigan.

"My years were amazing," he told today's graduating class in his 18-minute speech. "I had opportunities to do things you couldn't do at other schools."

About 40,000 people packed inside the Big House for today's commencement ceremony, including about 5,500 graduates. Despite rumors that some students were planning to be loud and disruptive while Snyder spoke, the Republican governor — who has proposed deep cuts to university funding — received loud cheers from a mostly respectful crowd.

Only about two dozen graduates stood with their backs turned during Snyder's speech. The U-M College Democrats tried to rally to get more to turn their backs prior to commencement.

"As you travel from this stadium, ask yourself what is your mission," Snyder told today's graduating class, encouraging them to be "explorers."

Snyder said his own mission has been to make the world a better place and be able to say he added value, and part of that includes having fun. After a successful career as a businessman, he said getting involved in public service was the second phase of that mission.

"The opportunity arose to run for governor because we were a broken state, and there was an opportunity to reinvent our state," he said.

"Now the having fun part isn't really true today. But what I say in that context is it's not about laughs, it's not about enjoyment while you have to make tough decisions. It's about saying is there satisfaction in doing the right thing and hopefully making our state a better place."

Snyder encouraged students to always remain positive and forward-looking and to work with others to "win together" and to solve problems.

"It's about giving your all and making a difference in people's lives," he said. "If you are a leader and you have a mission, don't worry about getting the mission entirely done. That may not be possible. But if you continue to give your best and try to make that happen, by giving your best, you will be a stalwart among the leaders and best. So take that into life."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Sun, May 1, 2011 : 6:58 a.m.

My son attended the graduation as a guest of a UM grad and found the governor's speech to be inspiring and interesting. Given the governor first stated there were two ways to go in these instances, "what it was like when I was in college", or "heavy topics", he chose the former. My son spoke of many events that are recounted here, and he didn't get home until 10PM or so. I would call the speech a success if it held interest and was remembered that long for someone who wasn't even a graduate. I still remember the speaker from my college graduation in the 80's - Ted Turner. He was inspirational and engaging, and eventually went on to personally break all the rules he told us to live life by. That doesn't really matter in the end. I graduated with an uplifted message after 4 long years and I was glad there was that at the end. I was also in a huge university like UM. I hope my son's graduation from another MI university next year will feature a great send-off/speaker with a memorable message. Isn't graduation really about the graduates, after all?

Moscow On The Huron

Sun, May 1, 2011 : 4:26 a.m.

So maybe 12 out of tens of thousands? Looks like that recall movement is going to fall a bit short. This is going to be fun to watch.


Sun, May 1, 2011 : 2:42 a.m.

Whine whine whine! You people (protesters) that are whining about cuts need to face reality. The budget's don't support your lavish lifestyle to which you are leaving the bills to me and my younger generation peers. You should be ashamed... Its disgusting that you feel you deserve all these benefits and we should foot the bill...

Dave the guitar player

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

What are you talking about? "Lavish" lifestyles? How exactly do you think people (other than you of course) should live? What exactly about the house in the suburbs and a station wagon offends you so much? Are we your slaves?


Sun, May 1, 2011 : 2:04 a.m.

Govenor Snyder's talk was completely uninspiring, dull and boring...disappointing.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

Hey Rick! Put a .50 cent tax on every lottery ticket sold in Michigan, $1.00 tax on all drinks like Red Bull then add a few bucks to alcohol tax and cigarettes tax. Then we could leave grandma's pension alone.


Sun, May 1, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

The lottery is already a tax on the gullible and the hysterical.


Sun, May 1, 2011 : 6:04 a.m.

Because Dudley young people injoy the many good things are forfathers worked so hard for,no it's not the perfect but this is still the best darn country to live and grow in, therefore the young people should understand there is a price we all must bear for the good of all. We should all remember to take care of older folks who must live on slim incomes aswell, for you will also be old some day . So try to look at the big picture here and be thankfull for the things you do have.Now get to work and get helping and stop complaining ok.


Sun, May 1, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

She can live with her children... Why should my generation take on all this debt you people are running up...


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

I was at the protest outside the gates. I wonder if our chants of "Recall Rick" were heard inside the stadium?


Sun, May 1, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

I was also protesting outside the gates. I took a moment to go inside the stadium to get a perspective from the inside. You could hear faint "Recall Rick" chants from time to time, but it wasn't enough to disrupt the ceremony. As a protester, I was relieved to find out that our presence was felt without being obtrusive to the actual ceremony.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

Politics aside, the speech was BORING and it's too bad there wasn't more of a fuss to at least make the graduation interesting. So he went to Michigan and never ate a bagel - big deal. It was arrogant and uninspiring.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

um, Rocco? the governor is "usurping the power of elected officials"? the governor IS an elected official. you knew that, right? Rick Snyder ran on a platform of slashing spending to try and save the state. agree with him or not, he's doing exactly what he said he would. for us now to pretend that he's somehow going rogue is a little disingenuous. unlike you, I am delighted that our U-M students behaved in a respectful and grownup manner. I was afraid they wouldn't, given the lefty lean of campus. but they made us proud.

Dave the guitar player

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 12:01 a.m.

The Governor promised to be fair. His plan cuts programs for education, health and the poor and uses this money to fund his scheme to increase employment by cutting taxes. So, the entire cost of his program falls upon those in Michigan who can least afford it. Meanwhile, the wealthiest in Michigan are not being asked to provide anything more. The Governor broke his promise. Those whose programs are being cut would not be so angry if the Governor had been fair. We all want Michigan to succeed. Michigan can afford a better future than the one envisioned by the Governor.

Stephen Landes

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

Enough already! What I really wanted to know are things like who all the honorary degree recipients were and what, if anything , they said, and who swore in the newly commissioned officers from the Navy, Air force, and Army ROTC? Is it possible to have a real news article about the ceremony in addition the all the coverage about what 5 to 12 unknown students did? We need an article to match the wonderful photos.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

I'm surprised and disappointed that more UofM students did not protest the choice of the governor as a commencement speaker. Apart from the governor's budget which severely reduced state funding for higher ed, he is appointing administrators to take over cities that fail some economic test. In doing so, he's usurping the powers of elected officials. There's significant national attention on this issue and students of democracy consider it a very dangerous trend. While Gov. Snyder seem like a nice guy his policies are hurting people and eroding democratic institutions. I guess this class of students is okay with that as long as their ceremony goes on unimpeded.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 8:35 p.m.

News Rocco, there is a lot less funding for everything. Perhaps due to the numbers of people who left the state, lower property values and rampant unemployment. It is not the Gov's fault. Perhaps the students understand this.

Marshall Applewhite

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

They probably realize that Snyder gives them the best chance of actually being employed within the next couple of years.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

Only about two dozen turned their backs on him and crowd cheered for him. How embarrassing for the protesters.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

Why is it embarrassing? Twelve out of 40,000, that is why.

Marshall Applewhite

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

@casual observer If they actually believed in the cause, I agree they shouldn't be embarrassed. But there were some extremely sheepish looks on faces of the "protesters", and the rest of the crowd was giving them very funny looks. I'd have to imagine they quickly realized the ridiculousness of their actions. Certain things sound like good ideas in the planning stage, but reality is very different.

Casual Observer

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

Why should the protestors be embarrassed? Because they stood up for what the believe? Yet you sit behind a computer passing judgment on people you don't know. I wonder for whom we should be more embarrassed....?


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

Thanks to Gov. Snyder for giving our graduates a positive and uplifting speech. Exactly what we would expect from a true leader.

Dr. Rockso

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 5:53 p.m.

A billionaire, a Tea Party person and a union member confront a plate of 12 cookies: The billionaire takes 11 of the cookies, and says to Tea Party Person, 'That guy (the union member) is trying to steal your cookie'.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 7:12 p.m.

If he was a Socialist he would distribute the cookies so that everyone has some. =]


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

So the billionaire is a socialist?

Casual Observer

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

@Marshall Applewhite: Maybe should run all news articles by you before they post them.

Moscow On The Huron

Sun, May 1, 2011 : 4:23 a.m.

That idea has my vote.

Marshall Applewhite

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 8:12 p.m.

I agree with this statement.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

Congrats to the graduates who were brave enough to stand up what they believe in.

David Briegel

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 5 p.m.

Your TeaPublican talking points are garbled. Is it 5, 6 or 12?

Marshall Applewhite

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

After last year's angry feminist union rally speech by Gov. Granholm, it was refreshing to hear our current Governor actually inspiring grads for the future. I'm extremely happy that Rick Snyder is running this state, and is doing a great job so far. Also, the 15 students who actually turned their backs looked pretty embarrassed by the end. I still can't believe gave unlimited front page access to a 15 person group for two months straight.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

Correction--6 turned their backs.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

I stood from the field and counted. It was about two dozen.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

Frank Beckmann from WJR who was in the audience at Michigan Stadium reports 5 students stood with their backs to Snyder, and 5 faced him (in support?). I'd say the protest was a wash! Congratulationds students for being mature and rising above the poor-sport instigators!


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

So, 10 students in total were there?