U.C. Merced Graduation Ceremonies

May 17, 2009 11:00:59 AM PDT
Includes Michelle Obama's U.C. Merced Commencement SpeechIt's been a brutally hot day, but an historic one as well.

This was Michelle Obama's first trip to California as first lady, and her first commencement address, and it was a fitting tribute for U.C. Merced's first full graduating class.

"Yes we did, Michelle Obama said.

This was the moment U.C. Merced's founding class had been waiting for since convincing Michelle Obama to speak at their commencement through letters, valentine cards...

Michelle Obama said, "A few people may be wondering, why I chose the U.C. Merced to deliver my first commencement speech as first lady. Let me tell you something, the answer is simple. You inspired me."

The first lady congratulated the students on helping to shape their young university as thousands of people in the crowd struggled to stay cool under the sweltering sun. The heat proved too much for some guests, but others said nothing could keep them from this historic ceremony.

Marcella Andrews, Commencement Guest said, "Even if it were 100, I'm glad it's not, but it was not a sacrifice, it's just an honor and a privilege to be here."

Mrs. Obama's presence made the commencement dramatically different--from the metal detectors and snipers to the larger venue and jumbotrons. But for this inaugural class, it was the perfect end to four years filled with firsts.

Jason Castillo said, "It felt amazing, just to hear her speak, she's such an inspirational speaker, and i was so fortunate just to be in her presence."

Alicia James, U.C. Merced senior said, "It was so fantastic, i can't even put it into words, to be part of this celebration. We've been looking forward to this for a long time, and we were more than to have Michelle here celebrating with us today."

The first lady finished her speech by encouraging the more than 500 graduates to give back to their community and believe in their ability to make a difference.

"You are the hope of Merced and this nation, and be the realization of our dreams and the hopes of the next generation. We believe in you." Michelle Obama said.

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