Barack Obama to speak at ‘historic’ commencement
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 08:02
President Barack Obama is set to return to Ohio State’s campus to speak during the 2013 Spring Commencement, but some students are worried all their family members won’t be able to attend.
“This is a historic occasion for the university, the city of Columbus, and our graduates and their families,” said OSU President E. Gordon Gee in a Wednesday press release. “We are honored to have President Obama address our graduates at the university’s largest commencement ever. To be sure, this is a signal moment in the life of one of the most vibrant and vital universities in our nation.”
According to a press release, there will be extra security measures in place during commencement. All guests must have a ticket, and graduates can receive up to four tickets for their guests.
Megan Suman, a fourth-year in health sciences who expects to graduate in the spring, said she is concerned about the ticket limit.
“I’m kind of nervous about that because my parents are divorced, so I almost have two different families coming to graduation, and I’ve heard a lot of people coming whose families already have hotels booked and things like that,” she said. “I have a couple friends who I would’ve liked to come down for graduation, but now that I only have four tickets, I don’t know about that.”
Hayden Young, who plans to graduate in the spring with a degree in economics, had similar concerns.
“People in my family planning on coming cannot now,” he said. “It will be unfortunate some family members will be unable to be there.”
In OSU’s largest commencement to date, about 12,000 are expected to graduate. Graduates will not need tickets to attend.
Board of Trustees secretary David Horn served on the Speaker Selection Committee and said seats are also limited due to the renovations being done on the concrete in the stadium.
University spokeswoman Amy Murray said the university didn’t have details yet on procedures for extra tickets.
Many students would likely be interested in any available extra tickets.
“I feel like I want the people who have led me to this point in my life to witness me graduate because this is going to be my biggest accomplishment in my 20 years of existence, so of course I want my grandparents, my parents and my brother to be there,” said Taylor Stockwell, a third-year in communication who will be graduating in the spring.
Niraj Antani, a member of the Commencement Speaker Selection Committee, said the university requested Obama speak at commencement in November.
“I can say that the president was invited before I actually began my service on the Commencement Speaker Selection Committee, and the reason being that he’s president of the United States and it’s no longer an election year,” Antani said. “There was really no one else considered.”
Antani, who is also an OSU College Republicans spokesman, is expected to graduate this spring.
“Obviously the president and I disagree on a plethora of issues, but it’s an honor to have the sitting president of the United States speaking at commencement,” he said.
Spring Commencement is scheduled for noon on May 5 in Ohio Stadium. Obama will deliver the speech exactly one year after he kicked off his re-election campaign at the Schottenstein Center.
Since then, Obama has visited campus twice: in August when he had lunch at Sloopy’s Diner in the Ohio Union, and in October when he delivered a speech on the Oval.
Obama also visited campus last March and in October 2010.
Suman heard Obama speak on the Oval in October and said she expects his speech to be very different than the one he delivered then.
“It’s probably going to be more of him talking about what’s going to happen to us now that we’ve graduated or education in general instead of just him trying to win re-election,” she said.
This will be the third time a sitting president has given OSU’s commencement speech, according to the press release. George W. Bush spoke in 2002 and Gerald Ford spoke in 1974.
Murray said the university does not pay for commencement speakers. She said she remembered the excitement when the last sitting president spoke at commencement in 2002 and thinks the reaction will be similar.
“Obama is probably one of the most requested commencement speakers in the U.S., and Ohio State is proud to have him,” she said.
Antani said he was told the university would cover flights and hotels for the commencement speaker, but this wouldn’t be necessary for the president.
“If an actor came, we’d pay for their flight and hotel, but I don’t think we’re going to be footing the bill for Air Force One,” he said.
Obama will also be giving the commencement speech at the all-male Morehouse College in Atlanta this spring.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Jack Hanna spoke at Autumn Commencement in December, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice spoke at Spring Commencement 2012.
Ben McConnell and Daniel Fyffe contributed to this story.