“Obama Knows The OC”
School administrators think they’ve got a secret weapon: Mamadou Ndiaye.
IRVINE – UC Irvine is wooing President Barack Obama to give the school’s 2014 commencement address, possibly at Angel Stadium.
And school administrators think they’ve got a secret weapon: Mamadou Ndiaye.
Standing 7-foot-6, the tallest collegiate basketball player in the nation (and popular presence on campus) has given a video invite to Obama, a hoops fan who played on his high school varsity team in Hawaii in the 1970s.
A UCI faculty member will fly to the Capitol in the next couple of weeks to hand deliver the video, which also shows the rest of UCI’s men’s basketball team shooting hoops. Also slated to be carried into Obama’s scheduler’s office will be mailbags stuffed with postcards and letters from UCI students and alumni requesting the president’s presence at the June 14 event.
Cathy Lawhon, spokeswoman for UCI, said they have about 8,000 missives right now. Their goal is to get 2,000 more before making the trip.
The letter writing campaign kicked off early in the school year, at Homecoming, with a bring-Obama-to-campus booth. An official invite was sent to the White House last April.
And how was it received?
“We have no way of knowing at this point,” says Lawhon, but the chancellor has been told a decision will be made by April.
Traditionally, hundreds of colleges and universities invite the president to commencement. It’s anyone’s guess which one Obama will pick this year.
Last year he gave the commencement address at Morehouse, an all-male historically black college in Atlanta. In 2012 it was Barnard College for women in New York.
UCI believes it has a good shot.
The invite points out that 50 years ago, in June of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood on ranch land to dedicate UCI’s grounds.
California is not just talking about education – you are doing something about it, Johnson told a crowd that day. Help us demonstrate to the world that people of compassion and commitment can free their fellow citizens from the bonds of injustice – the prisons of poverty, and the chains of ignorance. Help us to open the doors of America’s abundance and freedom’s promise to every man, whatever his race, region or religion.
UCI has answered that call, Lawhon says.
“We think that original message might resonate with the president.”
Also: “We think we could show him a good time.”
Even though they have received no confirmation, Lawhon said the school is moving forward as though it were going to happen. The campus has investigated renting out Angel Stadium.
Typically, UCI must hold several commencements to accommodate all the graduates and their families. The largest venue on campus, the Bren Events Center, holds 6,000 people. This year, 8,000 students are expected to graduate. Even if each student got two tickets for family members, that would necessitate 24,000 seats.
If UCI rents out Angel Stadium, Lawhon said, each student will get five tickets. The stadium holds about 45,000. The Angels are scheduled to play in Atlanta on June 14.
Lawhon does not know how much it would cost UCI to rent the stadium, but believes the school would spend more if it had to build the infrastructure for a mega commencement on campus.
LORI BASHEDA OC Register