UCI students have mixed reactions about Obama’s commencement appearance

By Tam Nguyen, Nguoi Viet

IRVINE, Calif. ― Graduation day is still 10 weeks away at UC Irvine, but it’s already the talk of the campus. After all, it isn’t every day that a president comes to town.

President Barack Obama has accepted UC Irvine’s invitation to speak at its class of 2014 commencement ceremony June 14 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the White House has confirmed. AP Photo/Reinhold Matay

The announcement that President Barack Obama will speak at UCI’s commencement ceremony on June 14 is generating buzz on campus ― both positive and negative ― as the day approaches.

“Having President Obama come to my graduation ceremony is such an honor, an honor that I cannot believe I get to have,” said Virginia Nguyen, 23, a major in public health.

Virginia Nguyen

Virginia Nguyen. Photo by Tam Nguyen/Nguoi Viet

While UCI typically holds smaller on-campus commencement ceremonies, divided by academic area, the university’s 8,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional school students will graduate together. To accommodate the students and their families, the school has rented 45,000-seat Angel Stadium of Anaheim for $1.2 million, according to Cathy Lawhon, UCI media relations director.

Admission to the ceremony is by ticket only and open to graduates’ invited guests. The public is not invited.

President Obama’s appearance will kick off UCI’s golden anniversary year and, in a way, bring the university full circle. It was another president, Lyndon B. Johnson, who in June 1964 dedicated land in the open spaces of the Irvine Ranch area of Orange County for a university.

The White House announced late last month that Obama would speak at UCI’s graduation. It’s an announcement that universities nationwide covet, and one that UCI had sought since last year.

In April 2013, Chancellor Michael Drake sent a letter to Obama inviting him to deliver the keynote address, during which he conveyed the achievements of UCI in its first half-century. And last month, a group representing UCI delivered to the White House about 10,000 postcards and a video that featured 7-foot-6 basketball player Mamadou Ndiaye standing next to a cardboard cutout of the president saying, “Mr. President, we should play ball together.”

The president agreed, and some students said his visit will give them a great memory of their graduation and make UCI a household name.

“I feel honored,” said Justin Chin, 21, a neurobiology major. “It is a big thing when the president comes to the ceremony. It is a nice icing on the cake to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UCI.”

Justin Chin

Justin Chin. Photo by Tam Nguyen/Nguoi Viet

“It is good for our school recognition for those who haven’t heard about this school,” said Rafael Herrera, 23, who majors in the history of film and media.

Rafael Herrera

Rafael Herrera. Photo by Tam Nguyen/Nguoi Viet

“I was shocked to find out that President Obama really was coming to my graduation ceremony,” said Christina Le, 20, a double major in economics and sociology.

Christina Le

Christina Le. Photo provided by  Christina Le.

However, not everyone is as thrilled about Obama’s appearance. Some students said they are disappointed the focus will not be on the more intimate, smaller graduation ceremonies that have been the tradition at UCI. The university still will hold smaller, school-based ceremonies on campus on June 15 and 16, where students’ names will be called for individual recognition, but to some graduates, that’s a letdown.

“I want to have a small graduation, and it is more of a personal thing. I don’t want Obama stealing my spotlight,” said David Dzhrnazyan, 22, who studies psychology and social behavior, said.

David Dzhrnazyan

David Dzhrnazyan. Photo by Tam Nguyen/Nguoi Viet

Michael Di Lorenzo, a 21-year-old majoring in biology science, said Obama’s appearance could take away from the graduates’ special day.

“My family is coming from Boston and want to see me walk to get the diploma,” he said.

Michael Di Lorenzo

Michael Di Lorenzo. Photo by Tam Nguyen/Nguoi Viet

But for Virginia Nguyen, Obama’s appearance is a great way to culminate her studies.

“It’s pretty cool how we were able to get the president to come,” Nguyen said. “For Obama to come is enough; the school doesn’t have to have smaller ceremonies after that day.”

Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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