After four years of campaigning by members in all facets of the Spelman community, the first African-American First Lady of the United States of America will serve as the speaker for the College’s 124th commencement on May 15, 2011
“Michelle Obama is a positive influence and role model for young women,” said President Beverly Daniel Tatum. “She also personifies the same values as the Spelman College community of students, alumnae, staff and faculty – love of family, the significance of an education in forging one’s path in life and the value of community service in not only impacting those in your immediate community but globally as well.”
While Spelman has hosted other presidential visits – George Bush Sr., Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Ellen Sirleaf, and Hillary Clinton also visited campus when she was the first lady — the path to Mrs. Obama’s acceptance of the invitation to address the class of 2011 has been nothing less than remarkable. Students took the lead early on in the process. Understanding that anyone invited to be a commencement speaker will also be conferred an honorary degree, the class of 2009 wanted to nominate her for the honor.
“It really started in 2008 with the class of 2009,” said Cathy Daniels, secretary of the College and chief of staff. “The day the nominations were open for honorary degrees, they came with a completed packet that included the first lady’s dissertation from Princeton as part of the supporting background information as to why she should receive an honorary degree. They were on it.”
The College did present a letter of invitation to Mrs. Obama to be the speaker for the 2009 commencement, but she declined. “We didn’t get her that year, but we were determined,” said Daniels.
Soon after the 2009 commencement, a letter from Dr. Tatum and the class of 2010 President Topaz Sampson was sent to the first lady. Alumnae and friends of the College that had relationships with the White House were also on the case, sending inquiries and talking it up with individuals they knew were part of the Obama circle. And while a follow-up letter was sent that fall, Mrs. Obama decided to address the senior classes at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, and George Washington University in May of 2010.
The Spelman Blue Campaign for Michelle Obama
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-By HBCUBuzz Staff