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White House releases statement on why Obama chose 'U' for spring commencement speech

Susan Walsh/AP
President Barack Obama talks in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday. Buy this photo

BY JACOB SMILOVITZ
Editor in Chief
Published April 29, 2010

The White House released a statement to The Michigan Daily today saying that President Barack Obama chose to deliver this spring’s commencement address at the University of Michigan because of the school’s position as a leading public university.

In the statement, the White House also addressed what Obama plans on discussing in his keynote speech at spring commencement this Saturday.

According to the statement from Shin Inouye, a White House official, the University’s potential as a public university to drive the U.S. economy to new heights pushed Obama to address its graduates this year.

“In today's economy, education is more critical to the success of individuals and our nation as a whole than ever before. Countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow,” the statement said. “Top-flight public universities like the University of Michigan are vital to ensuring that America continues to lead in the global economy for generations to come.”

One of the hot topics around campus of late has been what Obama will actually discuss in his speech. According to the statement, the president plans on discussing the need for graduates to work together to fix the many problems that exist at this important juncture in American history.

“President Obama will challenge graduates to write the next chapter in our nation's great story,” the statement said. “He will ask them to eschew partisan rancor and come together to move the country forward as generations of Americans facing critical moments in our history have before them.”

Presidents using Ann Arbor as a backdrop to give big speeches in those critical moments is not a new trend. On February 11, University President Mary Sue Coleman announced that Obama would become the third sitting president to address University graduates at spring commencement.

While in office, President Lyndon B. Johnson and President George H.W. Bush spoke at the 1964 and 1991 spring commencements, respectively. Former President Bill Clinton spoke to the graduating class in 2007.

Johnson’s speech was especially historic among those addresses, as Michigan Stadium was where he chose to first announce his plans for the Great Society — a series of social programs Johnson would work on throughout his tenure that sought to reduce poverty and eliminate social injustice.

Spring commencement ceremonies usually only draw a crowd of about 30,000 to 40,000 people. But, University officials are anticipating upwards of 80,000 people to attend Saturday’s event, including an overwhelming majority of the 12,000 graduating students being expected to attend.