“I think this just continues the wonderful reputation and stature and high regard that our university has held by presidents and what better president than President Obama.”
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Ilitch said she had been aware of the University’s request for some time, noting that she even brought it up when she met with White House officials last month about her potential bid to become Michigan’s next governor.
“It was kind of interesting because I was at the White House a couple weeks ago to meet with some of the president’s aides and I brought it up,” Ilitch said. “I knew that we had a request in for the president to come and speak at the University and many people around the University were working on obtaining the president’s attendance. When I had asked them, they said, ‘yes, we are aware of the request and we’ve taken it under advisement.’”
The suspense over whether Obama would accept the invitation made today’s announcement even more special, Ilitch said.
“And so I was especially excited to hear when it went from ‘under advisement’ to a big yes,” she said. “It was very heartening to hear they had said yes.”
Ilitch said she felt the visit would not only be significant for the students graduating and those in attendance, but also for the state of Michigan as a whole.
“I think it’s terrific that he’s coming to Michigan, to our state,” Ilitch said. “I think the state was so supportive of him during the election and so I’m just especially pleased that he’s visiting our state as well as our university.”
In addition to delivering the commencement address at the University, The Associated Press is also reporting that Obama will speak at Hampton University in Virginia and one of the nation’s military academies.
Hampton University President William R. Harvey told the AP that Obama will speak to Hampton graduates on May 9.
The Obama administration official who told the AP that Obama would speak at a military academy spoke on the condition of anonymity and did not say which academy Obama would speak at. Obama spoke at the U.S. Naval Academy last year.
In addition to speaking at the Naval Academy in 2009, Obama delivered the commencement address at Arizona State University and Notre Dame University last year. Obama’s invitation to speak at ASU’s graduation ceremony drew criticism from some when the university refused to award him an honorary degree.
His address to Notre Dame also turned controversial when a former Vatican ambassador who was slated to receive an honorary degree refused to accept the degree alongside Obama because of Obama’s pro-choice stance on the issue of abortion.
— Managing News Editor Jillian Berman contributed to this report.