Some Ohio State students miffed Obama is graduation speaker
Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 22:02
The four ticket limit for Spring Commencement where President Barack Obama is expected to speak has many students scrambling to find extras, but at least one student decided it wasn’t worth it.
“I’ve spent four years at a rather liberal university,” said Kyle Gravatt, a fourth-year in agronomy. “To be honest, the amount of political leftness of the college has made me feel somewhat alienated as a student, and this choice of commencement speaker does not serve to help.”
Gravatt also said the four ticket limit for family and friends of graduates is another reason why he might not walk through the ‘Shoe with about 12,000 other graduates.
“I have family flying out from New Jersey to watch me graduate, but they won’t be able to because of the four ticket limit,” Gravatt said.
Some students have been making offers to buy and sell tickets to graduation on the class of 2013 Facebook page.
Only a few months after a presidential election that turned Ohio into a political battleground, some students aren’t happy Obama was invited back to the university to speak.
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.
He also spoke on campus last March and in October 2010.
Amanda Ihnat, a Republican and fourth-year in political science, said regardless of political affiliation, hosting the president as the speaker is an honor. Her main concern, though, is whether the president will use the opportunity to push his political agenda.
“All I can ask is that it’s not a politicized speech and I can learn something and apply that to my career and my future,” Ihnat said. “I thought that it was kind of interesting that people are going (to) focus on the speaker,” Ihnat said.
University spokeswoman Amy Murray said the university does not pay for commencement speakers.
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.
Tim Collins, a Republican and fourth-year in sociology, is hopeful the speech will be fitting to the occasion.
“I think that if this were (Obama’s) first term and he was running for re-election, I would be more concerned,” Collins said. “But I think now that he’s in his second term, and he’s done these things before, I think he knows to focus on the potential for young people, rather than pushing a political agenda.”
Obama has spoken at several commencement ceremonies during his time as president, including the University of Michigan and Notre Dame.
Niraj Antani, a fourth-year in political science, spokesman for the OSU College Republicans and member of the Commencement Speaker Selection Committee, was fearful of partisan goals in the president’s speech.
“Obviously (Republicans) disagree with the president,” Antani said. “The fear is that he will use the speech for partisan purposes, and we really hope he doesn’t do that.”
Antani said the speech should be focused on the students and their families.
“(The speech) should be a celebration of their achievements,” he said. “Obviously it’s an honor, but there is some weariness and anxiousness in seeing what he talks about.”
Ihnat said that by people focusing on whether they agree with the speaker for Spring Commencement, people aren’t directing their attention to what should be the focus — the students graduating.
Obama will be the fifth president and the third sitting president to speak at an OSU commencement.
Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush when he was vice president, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have spoken at previous graduation ceremonies.