Michelle Obama creates commencement commotion

The Fresno BeeApril 26, 2009 

MERCED, Calif. _ UC Merced's commencement might have been a modest event with plenty of room for mom, dad and everyone else.

But a band of student leaders changed that by persuading first lady Michelle Obama to speak at the May 16 ceremony. Now, the newest school in the UC system is the envy of its sister campuses, and local city officials are in planning frenzy _ bracing for an influx of up to 25,000 people.

University officials think the Obama visit marks the first time a first lady will speak at a UC commencement. The University of California at Berkeley newspaper reacted to the news with this editorial headline: "Put to shame by Merced."

UC Merced, which opened in fall 2005 with 875 students, graduates its first full class next month. The pioneering Class of 2009 helped set up student government, founded clubs, dreamed up activities and won over Obama with little more than exuberance and less than $1,000 in cards and postage stamps.

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