There is arguably no more exciting college commencement speaker than the President of the United States.
Tomorrow, the President will speak at University of California, Irvine, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and orchestrated a year-long campaign to get Obama to speak. In order to get their first choice commencement speaker, UC Irvine sent the President letters and student-made videos to court him.
In order to see what it’s like for students on graduation day we looked at two colleges that had President Obama deliver past commencement speeches — Barnard College (2012) and Ohio State University (2013).
While these colleges are very different from each other — in size, location, and type of school — both had similar experiences when the President came to speak.
Security measures are significantly more intense when the president speaks at a college commencement, typically causing a notably longer day for everyone involved.
When Obama spoke at Barnard College in 2012, the roughly 600 student graduates were told to arrive at the ceremony in cap and gown at 8 a.m. — for a procession that started at noon. Some Barnard parents arrived as early as 4:30 a.m. in order to get the best seats to watch their children graduate.
Similarly, the much larger crowd at Ohio State University’s commencement — which anticipated attendance at around 70,000 people — was advised to arrive at the stadium at 7:30 a.m. The OSU ceremony was also scheduled to begin at noon.
One reason for the delayed entries is due to atypical college commencement security measures, such as full body metal detector scans. Here’s what it was like to see Obama speak at Barnard:
Once inside the commencement venue, attendees will usually see other security measures, such as snipers on the roofs of nearby buildings:
Although the president does not accept a fee for his commencement speeches, colleges still have to pay a large amount to make sure the event is safe and secure.
In a typical year, the OSU commencement ceremony costs between $US400,000 and $US500,000, according to student newspaper The Lantern. However, when the president came to speak, the associated costs rose to accommodate the extra security needed for the event, although the college would not reveal the total final cost.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the extra security could cost UC Irvine just under a million dollars — in addition to the $US1.2 million they have already spent on renting a stadium for their commencement. As they report:
UC Irvine officials have spent about $US1.2 million on the ceremony at Angel Stadium but said that money already had been earmarked for the school’s 50th anniversary celebration. The cost will rise because of extra security and other measures for Obama, but Irvine officials have estimated that the total cost will be less than $US2 million.
President Obama will speak at UC Irvine’s 50th anniversary Commencement Ceremony this Saturday.
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