Opening remarks of the Obama Rally at the University of Michigan:

MARY SUE COLEMAN (Addressing massive crowd on the Diag): On this day I will not stand before you and say ‘Welcome everyone.’ (Pauses.)

On this day I will stand before you and say ‘Welcome diversity.’ For at the University of Michigan, ‘diversity’ is not just an abstract noun — it is also a pronoun. To everyone here today, you are diversity. I welcome you. I welcome diversity. Let us consider what this means. (Closes eyes. Considers.)

(Opens eyes.) As you are aware, some months ago it was rumored that President Barack Obama would visit campus today, Apr. 1, to discuss his stimulus plan and its effects on education. The enthusiasm expressed by University of Michigan students, faculty, provosts, regents, assistant provost regents of diversity and myself was immeasurable. I am certain the irony of today’s date was not lost on those of you in attendance. Yet all of you have come. Will President Obama come? (Pauses. Looks up. A helicopter is heard.)

MARY SUE COLEMAN: Look! (The helicopter swoops into view and approaches the Diag. It hovers above the crowd before descending in front of the steps of the Graduate Library. Several men emerge dressed in black, followed by President Obama.)

MARY SUE COLEMAN (Awestruck): Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America!

PRESIDENT: (Waving, shaking hands, making way to podium.)

MARY SUE COLEMAN (Foregoing prepared speech): Of the United States of America!

PRESIDENT: Thank you very mu —


PRESIDENT (Amused): Let me thank all of —

MARY SUE COLEMAN: Mr. President, you have reached your ultimate goal. You are the first African-American President ever to step foot on the University of Michigan. Tell us about that inconceivably diverse journey.

PRESIDENT: Thank you once again, but today I —

MARY SUE COLEMAN (Addressing crowd): Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Caucasian mother and an African father, Barack Obama received most of his primary education in Indonesia. Mr. President, you echo diversity like … like a great underground cavern echoes the sound of bats and water!

PRESIDENT: (Confused.)

MARY SUE COLEMAN (Glances at prepared speech): Er, I mean, you echo diversity like the University of Michigan echoes diversity. Proudly. Strongly. Passionately. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Caucasian mother and an African father, Barack Obama received most of his primary education in — oh, I already said that.

PRESIDENT: Er, thank you. Thank you very much. I —

MARY SUE COLEMAN: Oh, here we go! Barack Obama then returned to the United States to pursue higher education, and with hard work and scholarships, he attained degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. Mr. President, share with us that Brobdingnagian experience and how it changed your global view.

PRESIDENT: I appreciate your interest in my background, but today I would like to talk about the future, particularly how the proposed stimulus package will impact universities like –

MARY SUE COLEMAN: The University of Michigan.

PRESIDENT: Exactly, which —

MARY SUE COLEMAN: — is the future, true. But I think, and I believe the same logic governs the belief in multiple universes, that there is the definite possibility that more than one future exists, if you follow me. And I think I am looking at one right now. Mr. President, you are the future.

PRESIDENT: Look, I’m quite flattered, but what I would —

MARY SUE COLEMAN: What I would like to do is extend the University’s sincerest recognition of your efforts by offering you an honorary degree. (Produces diploma.)

PRESIDENT: A B.S. in “Diversity Studies”?

MARY SUE COLEMAN: Congratulations!

PRESIDENT: I don’t know if I —

MARY SUE COLEMAN: Of course, of course, I forgot; here you are!

PRESIDENT: No! I don’t want a robe either!

MARY SUE COLEMAN: Now, here is a photo of me, and if you could just make it out to “Mary,” that would be more than . . .

PRESIDENT: (Walks to helicopter.)

MARY SUE COLEMAN: No! (The helicopter takes off.)

MARY SUE COLEMAN: Shoot! Provost, I need a provost! Yes, you! Come up here. What? No, I’m leaving. I don’t know, talk about football or something. Now somebody get me the hospital helicopter!

Will Grundler can be reached at

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