Education

You know that saying "Be careful what you wish for"?

I’ll admit that when I first heard Michelle Obama was a candidate for this year’s commencement keynote speaker, I was unbelievably excited. The nation was slowly coming off the high that Obama’s election had precipitated and Obama-fever still had Americans in its choke-hold. Getting the new First Lady as keynote speaker seemed to me a lofty ambition for our school, because Michelle was fastly becoming America’s darling and would surly be in high demand for months to come. Besides, we’re a tiny, brand new university in the middle of cow country; I fail to see the appeal (just kidding, I love my school).

 

I joined in the campus-wide effort. I even sent a Valentines Day card to the White House through the campaign UC Merced’s ASUCM had organized: a mass mail effort intended to overwhelm the first lady with Valentine’s Day cards praising her beauty (yes, praising her beauty. You should have seen the phrases on the pre-written Valentines, some were so sycophantic I couldn’t help but laugh) and thus convince her to pay our budding campus a visit to speak at commencement. Apparently the overwhelming number of Valentine’s Day cards shipped to the White House satisfied her of our conviction, and she accepted. When I found out she’d decided to speak, I was ecstatic!

 

Although Mrs. Obama’s presence at this year’s ceremony is a huge coup for the campus, and indeed, for the entire San Joaquin Valley, I’m starting to have second thoughts. I can’t help but wonder what commencement would be like sans First Lady…

 

No furtive, albeit conspicuous secret service roaming the campus (come on, when you attend college with a student population of 2,700, you get to know faces), no exponentially increasing commencement budget (Where exactly is UCM coming up with the $700,000 allotted for the ceremony?), no requiring that attendees arrive at their designated parking lots at 9:45 am for the 1:30 pm ceremony (Really?), no 1:30 pm ceremony, period, as the original plans were to have commencement earlier in the day (and thereby avoid sunburns and threat of death by heat exhaustion in the projected 99 degree weather)…

 

But also: no $1.1 million dollar estimated monetary boon for the city of Merced, no national attention for a city that can use all the attention (and help) it can get, and no going down in history as the first UC to have Mrs. Obama serve as keynote speaker at commencement.

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