The Donkey Press, the newspaper of UC Merced's student Democrats, published the following article about the effort to bring Michelle Obama to Merced.
picture by maverick dela vega
"What the First Lady's Visit Means to UC Merced”
by Nibal Halabi, Founder & Ex-Officio President, Democrats at UC Merced
It all started with a vision- a vision that will provide the perfect ending for our inaugural class. It was a vision, that was thought up by two people, and seen by a community. A vision, which will be realized come May 16th, 2009.
Earlier this semester, our (former) ASUCM President, Yaasha Sabba, called a meeting of all student leaders to discuss an important topic. He then proceeded to announce something that no one saw coming. The monumental task of inviting the First Lady Michelle Obama to be the commencement speaker of the inaugural class of UC Merced was now underway. The students then began brainstorming ideas on how to woo the First Lady to come to Merced. Ideas ranging from a simple letter-writing process to large-scale record breaking attempts were thrown onto the table. There were many outstanding ideas. The students then launched a Valentine's Day card writing plan of action, where anyone who was interested in doing so, wrote a personalized card to our First Lady. Over 900 cards were signed by students, staff & faculty, as well as community members.
Another idea that was implemented was the personalized writing of letters to First Lady Michelle Obama. Again, students, staff & faculty, community members, and even parents of students participated in writing letters. The students also created a video (which can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QURjq5Bk72c ) in which students participated in by aiding with the sound clips. It was truly something where the whole community was involved in.
Then on a Friday during spring break, we received the exciting news. First Lady Michelle Obama had accepted the invitation to be the commencement speaker. Word spread fast, too. Students texted, Facebooked, called, and emailed each other with the great news. Apparently the College Republicans were very excited as well citing their Right Side: “Like OMG!!! Michelle Obama is coming to UC Merced’s 2009 graduation!!!”
There's also been quite a bit of dissent from a group of students who are not happy with First Lady Michelle Obama being the commencement speaker. Setting up groups through the popular social networking site, Facebook, they really got their point across. Maybe now is a good time to remind readers of why students decided to bring her to our beautiful campus.
To many Michelle Obama is our First Lady. To some, she is just Barack Obama's wife. They're both right. But what people have seemed to forget about, is not what her title is, or who she's married to, but what she represents. Michelle Obama is a leader. Michelle Obama is a source of inspiration. Michelle Obama is a beacon of hope. Michelle Obama is a creator of success. Michelle Obama represents opportunities. Michelle Obama represents diversity. Just like UC Merced represents itself with a diverse student body. Just like UC Merced is creating opportunities for students & the community. Just like UC Merced is guiding students to success in the present & the future. Just like UC Merced shines a light; a symbol of hope. Just like UC Merced has inspired myself, students, community members, Central Valley residents, and the great state of California. “She will enable our pioneers to look through the fog for a brighter future which will help them lead the Central Valley and the rest of California to the global success it once was,” saysYaasha Sabba.
One graduating senior, Rodney Kendell Nickens, Jr., stated, “Her presence coupled with the historic nature of our graduation is going to provide an infinite amount of hope and inspiration for thousands, if not millions of students, parents, families, and community members, not to mention countless others who will watch from a far. Her speech and my degree will signify to me the validity and necessity of my educational journey and will provide the fuel I need to continue to press on even in moments of great adversity.”
Michelle Obama's visit will go far beyond celebrating the completion of a university degree to seniors. It will change UC Merced forever, and that is definitely a good thing. “Michelle Obama's presence at UC Merced will allow the spotlight to be on us,” stated graduating senior Cybill Navarro. “It is our time to shine. I am tired of hearing negative remarks about UC Merced. UC Merced will become more attractive to potential students allowing us to grow in numbers. The more students we have, the more hands we have in improving UC Merced and the city of Merced.”
One would assume that the graduates are going to love First Lady Michelle Obama being the commencement speaker. Who wouldn't want to have a First Lady as their commencement speaker? Look at how the number of students wanting to graduate, grew! From about 450 students to almost 550 students. What about the students who aren't graduating? How are they being affected by this, or rather, what do they think about it? “Having Michelle Obama as the inaugural speaker only begins to show all of the great things UCM can accomplish,” says Rebecca A. Perez, freshman. Javier Miramontes, sophomore, also agrees with Rebecca in that “it means that we have some really ambitious and hard working students who accomplished what was thought to be the impossible.”
On the other hand, sophomore Kevin Moultrie doesn't quite understand the relevance of having our First Lady as the commencement speaker. “Perhaps someone who, following the ideals of our campus, has innovated, or revolutionized one field or another. . .such as Mark Zuckerberg or Yoichiro Nambu or Toni Morrison.” Sure, they would make great commencement speakers, however one would hope that after reading this article, Kevin is convinced that bringing Michelle Obama to UC Merced will be beneficial to not only our campus, but the Merced community, as well as the Central Valley.
Regardless of one's political stance, or whether of not you voted for President Barack Obama, this graduation will be the perfect ending to those who've worked four hard years to get to where they are right now.
Congratulations to the Inaugural Class of UC Merced!