“I feel inspired to go on now and to do the work I’m going to do after I graduate,” Karey Quarton, an LSA graduate, said as she walked past Elbel Field Saturday following President Barack Obama’s address at the University of Michigan’s 2010 spring commencement.
Quarton, who will be moving to New Orleans following graduation to become a part of Teach for America, said hearing Obama deliver the commencement address on Saturday “sent us off in a very positive light.”
“I thought it was really wonderful and I thought it appealed to all of us,” she said.
In his address to the Class of 2010 Saturday, Obama challenged graduates to move beyond the partisanship that has crippled Washington and encouraged them to be active participants in furthering democracy in America.
Though many graduates said Obama’s message to them and the rest of country will help make their graduation from the University extra special, some said they wished the president would have spoken more directly to them, instead of to the nation.
As he said goodbye to his friends and made plans to meet up after the ceremony, Business School graduate Bryan Flory said he didn’t find Obama’s speech to be relevant to his experience at the University.
“It just realistically had nothing to do with us,” he said. “It just had nothing to do with graduation.”
Though he thought it was an honor to have the president speak at graduation, Engineering master’s student, Vikram Thakar said he thought the speech was “too political.”
“I’ve definitely heard him give better speeches before,” Thakar said.
Rackham graduate Aaron Rury said he found the speech to be “pretty standard boiler plate pressing (Obama’s) political narrative,” though he added that he found the part of the ceremony when Obama conferred the oath of office on the University’s ROTC graduates to be “pretty cool.”
“You have all these ROTC graduates all over the country and those (at the University) are probably the only kids who get to have the president do that for them so I thought that was pretty meaningful,” he said. “His speech in general was, you know very similar to the speech he gave last year at Notre Dame, when he talked about trying to have politics of inclusion rather than exclusion. So I thought it was predictable almost.”
Lucas Strasser who was conferred by Obama said he found the experience “very nice.”
“There are very few people in the military that have actually ever been read the oath of office by the commander in chief, so it was really exciting for me to have that honor,” he said.
Strasser’s mother Joy said watching her son be conferred by the president was an extremely proud moment for her.
“It was the thrill of my life because I helped campaign for President Obama and just to be here and have the honor of having my son join the service and be an officer and then to have the oath of office is beyond words,” she said.
Art & Design graduate Alex Friend said that though he didn’t think Obama’s speech was directed at him, he enjoyed it, adding that he appreciated Obama’s humor throughout the speech.
“I thought Obama’s speech was really interesting,” he said. “Seemed (like) he was concentrating more on the national issues than on the fact that we were graduating. But that’s alright, I guess you can expect that from the president, he’s got bigger matters on his mind.”
LSA graduate Kate Heller said that while she enjoyed Obama’s speech, she was “a little frustrated” by the remarks of Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who spoke before the president.
Other students also said they were disappointed with Granholm’s message.
Engineering graduate Neil Dhingra said he found Granholm’s speech to be “kind of worthless.”
“It was more political than it could’ve been,” he said.
Flory said he agreed.
“What Jennifer Granholm said really had nothing to do with us,” he said.
While some students found Granholm’s message to be less than appropriate, many graduates who had the experience of celebrating Obama’s win on election night said having the president at their graduation only enhanced an already happy day.
“It was the perfect ending to college to have him come,” LSA graduate Adva Gadoth said.
School of Nursing master’s graduate Danyiele Glenn said hearing Obama speak at her graduation was “great.”
“He’s always such an eloquent speaker,” she said. “Just right on time with his message, and it was just history.”
Business graduate Jacquitta Watson said she thought it was “really refreshing to have a really empowering speaker” like Obama, adding that she enjoyed the message of the student speaker Alex Marston.
“(Marston’s) message about change and how we need to embrace it really resonates with me,” she said. “Especially seeing how our football team is and seeing how our economy is, everything is going on right now changing and really hard to adjust to it and really talking about that really resonated with me.”
Though most of the excitement of the day surrounded Obama, School of Music, Theatre & Dance graduate Mary Martin had other things on her mind leading up to the ceremony. Martin, who sang the National Anthem to open the ceremony, said standing in front of the crowd at the Big House was the “scariest and most humbling” experience of her life.
“It was just incredible and I’ve never had anything like it,” she said. “Now every crowd next to that is going to seem super small.”
LSA graduate Meghan Gallagher said sitting on the field and watching Obama flanked by Granholm and University President Mary Sue Coleman was a wonderful way to end her college career.
“It was great because here we have this wonderful African American president and then the president of our university and the governor of our state are both females, so it’s just a really great picture for me, of what our future can bring,” she said.
— Daily News Editors Nicole Aber, Stephanie Steinberg and Eshwar Thirunavukkarasu contributed to this report.