Graduating students in caps and gowns filed through Michigan Stadium Saturday as this year’s graduation commencement ceremony returned to its regular venue.
The University of Michigan Commencement Band played a fitting arrangement of “M Fanfare” for a crowd of approximately 40,000 to kick off the ceremony.
Last year, spring commencement exercises were relocated to the Diag for the first time in the University’s history due to ongoing construction at the Big House.
University alum Will Rich, who graduated from the Ford School of Public Policy last year, said he was happy to see graduation return to the Big House.
“It was great,” Rich said. “I actually graduated last year on the Diag, so it was nice to be able to do it in the Big House this year.”
Throughout the commencement ceremony, the speakers voiced a shared sentiment of perseverance in the face of economic uncertainty.
LSA Dean Terrence McDonald said that though the class of 2009 is graduating in turbulent times, he is confident the situation will turn around.
“America is now, and forever will be, a good investment,” McDonald said.
School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior Ariel Arce, who gave the reflection, said that in spite of the economic crisis, “It’s never been a better time to be young.”
Her optimism was echoed by LSA senior George Dong, the student speaker for the event.
“Yes we can, and yes we will change the world one day,” said Dong, echoing one of President Barack Obama’s most famous mantras.
Dong, who is from Fuhou, China, explained that his presence at the podium was quite an achievement. When he first came to the University, he barely spoke English. Now, Dong will teach English in the inner city of Chicago as part of the non-profit organization Teach for America.
“Although our homes are miles apart, it’s the Michigan experience that connects us all,” Dong said.
Dong ended his speech with a rousing chorus of “It’s Great to be a Michigan Wolverine,” and was joined by the graduating class.
Larry Page, Google co-founder and University alum, delivered the commencement address at the ceremony.
Page urged the graduating seniors to have a “healthy disregard for the impossible,” citing his personal obstacles in creating Google.
“Sometimes it’s important to wake up and stop dreaming,” said Page, in reference to how he transformed his vision of Google into a reality.
Summing up the secret to changing the world in one sentence, Page said that the key is to “always work hard on something that is uncomfortably exciting.”