Brittany Best: Despite it all, the wait was worth it

Brittany Best

The only true fault of the day could be laid at the feet of weather.

Besides the nearly 100 degree temperatures searing the Valley on Saturday, UC Merced's 2009 commencement ceremony unfolded ideally: the skies were blue, the campus was primped and primed and the graduates were ready to receive their degrees.

My own day began at 8 a.m. with blaring alarm clocks -- yes, two -- and repeated resentful glances at my commencement ceremony parking pass that read in large letters across the top: "Blue Lot," and "Attendees must be ready to leave at 9:45 a.m."

When I first heard that commencement guests were required to drive to designated parking lots scattered throughout the city and then ride shuttle buses to campus, I was annoyed.

When I first heard that commencement guests were being required to arrive on campus before 11 a.m. for the 1:30 p.m. ceremony, I was distinctly irked.

When I first saw the line of metal detectors stretching as far as the eye could see up Scholars Lane, I felt nothing less than exasperation for the hoops Mercedians were being forced to jump through to accommodate Michelle Obama's visit.

I quickly came to find out that the phrase "Be careful what you wish for" was distinctly lodged somewhere in the back of my mind.

It began a recurring litany that got louder with every minute spent waiting in security lines, with every hour spent waiting for the ceremony to begin and with every beading drop of sweat that rolled stinging sunscreen into my eyes.

Yet despite it all, the wait was worth it: The first lady's words silenced my internal refrain as quickly and as surely as a mute button would a TV.

As for the city of Merced and the new university, Michelle Obama's keynote address was one that I, personally, will remember for a lifetime. She was classy and inspirational, touching not only the hearts of UC Merced's inaugural class and continuing students when she praised their conviction, persistence and incredible strength and determination, but also the members of Merced's community, when she traced the history of the area and to those who toiled to make Merced the hard-working, multicultural city that it is today.

For many students attending UC Merced, especially for those from more cosmopolitan areas, "the going" can get tough.

Khaki-colored fields as far as the eye can see, and cows in every coat color and pattern aren't encouraging to a girl who dislikes dry grass and those lumbering beasts of the bovine family.

Although I'm writing from my own perspective, I know that many of UC Merced's students feel the same. I also know how easy it is to focus exclusively on the negative aspects of the city and university we are attending and to completely forget the positive.

Sometimes the little things, those vastly important and essential positives in life, get caught up in the daily grind and swept to the back door of memory.

Often, they need only small encouragement to reach full bloom and fresh again. Although I'm not graduating this year, Michelle's keynote address did an amazing thing for both the graduates, and those, like me, who are continuing on next semester: Through her words she encouraged us to remember those lost "little things."

She reminded us of the incredible effort we've all put into our college careers. She reminded us what an admirable thing it is to even attain a degree. She reminded us of the sacrifices our families have made to get us to college, and of the friends who invested time and support when we were ready to give up.

She reminded us that for some, this day, a college graduation, will never come. Finally, she challenged the new graduates to "be the realization of our dreams" -- an honest appeal. I know no higher goal.

She encouraged us to take pride in our accomplishments and ourselves, to appreciate those who have helped us achieve what we have today and to cherish the blessings in life that have brought us all so far.

In the end, despite the lines, the waits and the incomprehensible amount of sweat, it was worth it. I don't think that there could have been another speaker who would have fit the ceremony so well.

I don't think that there could have been another speaker who would have inspired her audience the way Michelle Obama did. And I don't think that there could ever be a better way to have sent off the inaugural class of the University of California, Merced in their 2009 graduation.

Watching the faces of my friends on the JumboTron during the first lady's address and then later, as their degrees were conferred upon them, was worth every second of the day, every drop of sweat and every hoop jumped through since the announcement of Obama's impending visit.

Congratulations class of 2009 -- we are all so proud of you!

Brittany Best is a junior from Moorepark majoring in psychology with a minor in creative writing.