Students hope President Obama avoids politics, seeks to inspire in U-M commencement speech
With graduation just days away, University of Michigan students anticipating President Barack Obama’s commencement speech hope he'll inspire them and stay away from politics.
“I feel graduation is more for students, and I don’t want it to be overshadowed by a speaker,” U-M sophomore Emily Bonchi said.
“I would like to hear about Obama’s personal success and less policy,” said U-M student Alex Bade, who is graduating with a degree in civil engineering. “I want to hear Barack Obama the scholar, not the president.”
Ali Barsell, who will be graduating with an economics degree, said she hopes Obama will speak about the job market.
“It’s a concern for all of us graduating,” she said.
Still, others think the president’s speech should focus on making the world a better place.
Andre Nyffeler, a 2009 U-M graduate, said he thinks Obama should speak about ethics and virtue given the recent meltdown on Wall Street. He said he thinks Obama will also discuss the Peace Corps, a program that was born out of a speech by President John F. Kennedy at the University in 1960. The program marks the 50th anniversary of its conception this year.
Despite concerns graduation could turn into a political grandstand, students say they’re mostly excited about having a sitting president as this year’s keynote speaker,
“We’re definitely lucky to have a president come to speak to us,” said Alex Cooperstock, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and women’s studies Saturday. “It’s a great way to end our four years.”
U-M student Joshua Derke said he’s excited about all he hoopla surrounding the speech, even though he does not have tickets for Saturday. He said he remembers campus the night Obama got elected, when students poured onto the Diag and the marching band played the national anthem.
“I’m pretty excited if there’s that much energy about it,” he said. “It’s really great to have a sitting president give a speech.”
Even students with conservative families said their families are enthusiastic about Obama coming.
“My dad’s not happy with it, but I think they all realize it is pretty cool to see a president in person,” biology and Spanish major Michelle Webb said. “It’s been funny, because there’s been a lot of people coming out of the woodwork to get tickets.”
Bade said his family has similar feelings.
“I can easily say half the people I gave tickets to voted for McCain, but we’re very excited,” he said. “I didn’t have to force tickets on anyone.”
Erica Hobbs is a reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2537 or via e-mail at email@example.com.