Sherry L. K. Main / UC Irvine Wilbert Cheng, student video producer/director, left, and Mamadou Ndiaye, UC Irvine's 7-feet-6-inch center, filmed the recorded invitation asking President Barack Obama to speak at the June 14 commencement ceremony. Ndiaye concluded the footage with a challenge: Mr. President, we should play ball together. Download image

President Obama to speak at UC Irvine commencement celebration

Event marks 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s dedication of campus land

Irvine, Calif., March 20, 2014 –President Barack Obama will speak to UC Irvine’s class of 2014 in a commencement ceremony set for Saturday, June 14, in Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the White House confirmed today.

The historic appearance honors the accomplishments of the more than 8,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students of the graduating class of 2014 and kicks off the campus’s 50th anniversary celebration. In June 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson landed in a barren pasture to dedicate the land that would become UC Irvine. Johnson had only recently unveiled his Great Society agenda; groundbreaking civil rights legislation was passed by the Senate just a day earlier.

“I have come to California to ask you to throw off your doubts about America,” Johnson said from the podium 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.”

Completing a historic circle, President Obama will speak to a diverse class in which nearly 50 percent are first-generation university graduates.

“We are thrilled that the President has accepted our invitation to deliver the keynote address at our commencement exercises this June,” said Chancellor Michael V. Drake. “We will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking and dedication ceremonies of our campus. We are proud of the progress we have made during our first half century, and are looking forward to even greater achievements in the years to come.”

UC Irvine extended the initial invitation to the president in an April 2013 letter from Chancellor Drake that outlined the accomplishments of the relatively young campus. That effort was followed this year by students and staff who solicited signatures on approximately 10,000 postcards from Anteaters of all stripes – students, faculty, staff and alumni. In March, a delegation delivered the postcards and a student-produced video invitation to the White House Office of Public Engagement.

The June 14 ceremony will comprise undergraduate, graduate and professional schools in a unified celebration. School-based ceremonies, in which graduates are individually recognized, will follow on Sunday and Monday, June 15 and 16, on the UC Irvine campus.

About the University of California, Irvine: Located in coastal Orange County, near a thriving employment hub in one of the nation’s safest cities, UC Irvine was founded in 1965. One of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities, it’s ranked first among U.S. universities under 50 years old by the London-based Times Higher Education. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine has more than 28,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.3 billion annually to the local economy.

Media access: UC Irvine maintains an online directory of faculty available as experts to the media at today.uci.edu/resources/experts.php. Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UC Irvine news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.

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