Tag Archives: Michelle Obama

Why Bother? Central Valley Congressman Don’t Even Show up at UC-Merced’s First Graduation

UC Merced welcomed First Lady Michelle Obama to its first graduation.  The campus is still developing, with the first class fairly small. The whole campus is about one-tenth of its expected size, but this is already becoming an economic engine for the region, and holds promise to be an anchor in a region that desperately needs the development.

It wasn’t enough to make 5 of the 6 regional congressman to show up. The one who did? Democratic Representative Jerry McNerney. 4 of the 5 apparently had something better to do. Interestingly, Bush Dog Dennis Cardoza wrote the legislation that began UC Merced, but apparently has other commitments.  Devin Nunes had some big-time duties of being the idiot-in-chief:

A fifth, Visalia Republican Devin Nunes, says he is skipping the ceremony because he is unhappy with President Barack Obama and the majority Democrats in Congress.

“The president’s wife is coming to the Valley, and just five miles away you have tens of thousands of people out of work because of the policies of the Democrat Party,” he said. “I’m not going to go there and make nice.” (Fresno Bee 5/15/09

Shorter Nunes: I’m putting my political extremism over the people of my district.

Skipping right past the fact that he is unclear on English usage, let’s focus on the insanity of this statement. This is a major milestone for bringing some sustainable economic development to the region. Nunes is all up in arms regarding the water issues, but frankly Devin, it’s best we start getting used to low water.

In Nunes defense, he has already called on Schwarzenegger to resign over water issues too. He’s an equal opportunity idiot. But to pile on, he also goes ahead and says there is no drought to anybody who will listen, calling it “man-made” because we won’t exterminate the remaining fish in the Delta by turning on the pumps to divert the water. And oh, yeah, Devin, the coastal communities need water to drink too.

Using this event to make an unrelated political statement is offensive to the students who worked to build the community of UC-Merced. But, Nunes has never been one to avoid offense, has he?

With Michelle Obama’s Visit, University of California Merced Gets Its Day

Nothing has ever come easy to the University of California Merced and that makes this Saturday’s commencement of the first four year graduating class a profound moment for the San Joaquin Valley.

When First Lady Michelle Obama honors the class of 2009 by delivering the commencement speech, it will no doubt be time to take stock of how far this area has moved forward to educate its children. I will be there to applaud the graduates and the often ignored but always tenacious Central Valley community.

UC Merced is now a 2,700-student campus. It has breathed new life and vitality into the San Joaquin Valley and given thousands of high school students a sense of purpose. This first graduating class will showcase how the Merced campus will continue to embrace San Joaquin Valley students and others who might not otherwise attend a UC campus.

More over the flip…

For many years, the planning of the UC Merced campus has also given me a sense of purpose, because the Central Valley is my foundation and plays a significant role in the Golden State. I became a founding member and chairman of the UC Merced Foundation Board, because I knew the importance of having a campus in the Central Valley for the state. There were countless obstacles to get the campus up and running from fundraising to environmental regulations. There will other roadblocks in the future as the newest UC campus grows. But the campus will prevail, because UC Merced has gumption and drive. That is why First Lady Obama is speaking at the graduation ceremony.

I cannot overemphasize how important UC Merced is to the Central Valley. Economic and cultural lightening struck when the campus opened its doors. The resources of a world-class educational system located in Merced will help stimulate both the economic and cultural status of the region and the state.

There is nowhere but up for the UC Merced class of 2009 and the San Joaquin Valley. My hat is off to the graduates, their parents and the community.

California to Michelle Obama: We Can’t Afford You?

The University of California at Merced was supposed to be hosting First Lady Michelle Obama for their commencement ceremony this weekend.

The University of California at Merced is still hundreds of thousands of dollars short in its effort to defray the cost of Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

The university has raised $130,000 toward the estimated $700,000 bill. Leaders budgeted $100,000 for the ceremony before first lady Michelle Obama accepted the invitation to speak. (Fresno Bee)

John Garamendi Jr., an official at UC-Merced, is apparently responsible for making the budget work. With Michelle’s visit bringing out all the state pols, save Arnold, the cost continues to grow.

While this isn’t really a general fund expense, as commencement ceremony costs are usually underwritten by donors, it does send a rather appropriate message for the state. We can’t even afford the First Lady’s visit.

On completely unrelated news, I’ll be speaking at the East Bay DFA meeting tomorrow night. Come by to say hi and enjoy some good times.

I will also be speaking on May 20, at the Diablo Valley Dems meeting.

UPDATE: Speaking of graduates, many of them are millenials. If you’d like to learn more about the millenial generation and are in the Bay Area, you might want to check out this event with Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, authors of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube & the Future of American Politics.

Friday Open Thread

Enjoy your weekend, and that is a direct order.  Some items:

• The Obama Administration is finalizing the formulas for how much stimulus money will get delivered to each state, and based on my press releases from the White House, it looks like so far, we’re getting $42 million dollars from the Dept. of Transportation to fund airport repairs across the state, $48 million from HHS to expand and support community health centers, and $351 million in block grants from the Dept. of Energy to support energy efficiency measures.  This last part includes retrofits of community buildings, projects to capture methane from landfills, and financial incentives for weatherization and efficiency projects.  Further, the Obama budget would provide direct college aid to 27,547 additional students if passed with current language.

• In other White House news, on May 16 First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver the very first commencement address at UC-Merced, which opened in 2005.  Hopefully that will be all right with Darrell Issa.

• In CA-32 news, Judy Chu received a few endorsements.  She earned the support of the League of Conservation Voters.  Then the California Teachers Association endorsed, though given their financial commitment to Prop. 1B it’s unclear whether the endorsement will come with any resources.  The other was from Baldwin Park Unified School District Board President Blanca Rubio, who had previously announced as a candidate.  She dropped out and endorsed Chu.

• Southern California Reps. Howard Berman and Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced this year’s version of the DREAM Act in the House, which would offer a path to permanent residency for undocumented students who have spent most of their lives in this country, and would like to apply for college or serve their country in the military.  These are good quotes by Berman:

“It makes no sense to me,” said Berman, “that we maintain a system that brings in thousands of highly-skilled foreign guest workers each year to fill a gap in our domestic workforce, and at the same time do nothing to provide an opportunity to kids who have grown up here, gone to school here, and want to prepare themselves for these jobs or serve their country in the military.  This is the illogical outcome of our current immigration laws that the Dream Act will fix.”

“The issues addressed in the American Dream Act”, continued Berman, “are just a fraction of the problems in our immigration system.  This bill came about because our immigration laws are, and have been for some time, broken.  It is my great hope that we will put together a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes the Dream Act as it was introduced today, and it is my intention to work for and pass that comprehensive immigration reform package this year.”

• Please read Charles Lemos’ amazing post about recent events in Oakland.  And by the way, the Modesto Bee Ed Board gets it completely wrong – the fact that Lovelle Mixon responded violently because he missed a parole meeting doesn’t argue for more stringent parole, it argues for a less insane system where parolees don’t feel like hopeless fugitives because they miss one meeting.

• This is completely embarrassing work by the LA Times.  Apparently they’ve fired all the headline writers or something.

• John Myers is up again with your second favorite California politics podcast. This week he and Anthony York discuss the special election amongst other topics.

CalPERS wants a better deal on its hedge fund investments. They are demanding lower rates and more transparency from funds in which the massive pension fund invests in.

• OC Progressive has more than you need to know about Rep. John Campbell and his friends the Ponzi schemers, including Asm. Diane Harkey.

Michelle Obama’s speech

If you’re not watching this live, you need to watch it later, and see if you can prevent yourself from crying.

Update:  Absolutely brilliant to have Barack appear to talk to his family.  What a brilliant, heartwarming and family-oriented touch that will be replayed on networks everywhere.

That’s how to make the American public feel comfortable with you and your family values.  Who wouldn’t want that family in the White House?

It’s something that McCain just can’t match.

Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, Stevie Wonder, Maria Shriver…

Every so often, you go to one of these events and see something special.  I’m not talking about Maria Shriver, yet.

One of the first speakers was a woman named Susan, a 93 year-old Korean-American and veteran of the Navy in World War II.  She talked about going to basic training in the deep South and seeing segregation up close for the first time.  “We’ve come a long way,” she said, and in an auditorium filled with people of all races and ethnicities, uniting around one candidate, it rang true.

Oh yeah, there was this too:

more on the flip…

Being on the campus of UCLA, the demographic was very young.  It was the first time I’ve seen a crowd do “the wave’ at a political event.  There were homemade signs and banners everywhere, and a bunch of iconic-looking posters, designed by Shepard Fairey, with a roto-scoped drawing of Obama and the word “Hope.” (We snagged one.)

After the pre-program, which featured Susan as well as some California legislative leaders (the two highest-ranking woman in the California Legislature, Asm. Majority Leader Karen Bass and Sen. Majority Leader Gloria Romero, are supporting Obama), Buffy Wicks, a field coordinator with the California campaign, took the stage.  They instituted an “adopt-a-precinct program” at the event.  Each attendee was given a call script and a sheet with a couple dozen names from the Voter Activation Network (VAN) list, which has been developed over the past couple years as a pretty well-scrubbed voter contact database.  I’m not sure that this will result in a ton of calls, and certainly the campaign is relying on other sources than people who showed up to a rally.  But it gives the people that attended a sense of investment in the campaign, a chance to do more than show up, to really participate in their democracy.  And that’s really an invaluable sense of empowerment.

After that, the JumboTron at Pauley Pavillion played the “Yes We Can” song that has been generating such buzz online (incidentally, Scarlet Johansson is the “Dan Aykroyd in We Are The World” of that song).  And then, out came LA labor leader and campaign co-chair Maria Elena Durazo to introduce Caroline Kennedy.  Caroline is not entirely comfortable in this format, but she held some authority as she addressed the crowd.  She said that she is not normally involved in politics, but this year is different, and she saw in Obama someone that inspired her the way others tell her that her dad inspired them.

Oprah Winfrey was next, with a short but powerful speech that kind of seemed to be more about answering her own critics than talking about Sen. Obama.  Oprah can definitely work a crowd, and she got them into a frenzy by speaking about how this campaign on the Democratic side is a declaration of victory for women’s and civil rights.  “I hear a lot of people say ‘How could you, Oprah, you’re a traitor to your gender.’  But I’m a free woman, and I’m following my own truth.”  She recycled a Toni Morrison quote about how Obama has a creative imagination (that’s certainly what you see in the “Yes We Can” song, which he didn’t create, but inspired) and wisdom, in her view a gift that can’t be taught or borne from experience.

Oprah brought out who we thought was the final speaker, and at Michelle Obama’s side, unexpectedly, was Stevie Wonder.  He connected the opportunity of Obama to the realizing of seeing an MLK holiday and the end of apartheid in South Africa.  I’d say it was over the top, but it was Stevie Frackin’ Wonder.  He ended with a little musical number.

I had never seen Michelle Obama speak before.  She has learned well for her experience in this campaign.  Talking without notes, she told her own story, her husband’s, and the story of America, with the struggles of the working classes at the forefront.  It was almost a speech John Edwards could have given, with a good deal of populism and concern for the working man.  She talked about how the nation is too isolated, too cynical, too guided by a fear which clouds our judgment and cuts us off from each other.  “I am what an investment in public education looks like,” she said as she discussed life on the South Side of Chicago, growing up with a father with a disability who nevertheless provided for his family in an era when a city worker’s salary could do that much.  She really kind of hearkened back to a simpler time in America, before the middle class squeeze, when regular folks didn’t get the shaft.  We have, Michelle said, evoking her husband’s speech in an Atlanta church the day before the King holiday, an empathy deficit, a lack of fulfilling our mutual obligation to one another.  “Our souls are broken in this nation.”

It was striking, bold, almost angry at what has happened “through Democratic and Republican administrations” over the last few decades.  I didn’t expect a speech so focused on our forgotten commitments to family and community, on the needs of all of us to lift each other up, on the repeated phrase “to whom much is given, much is expected.”  Her recitation of Barack’s resume was familiar, but it was the presentation, the stridency in the voice.  “Sometimes we don’t know what the truth looks like because we haven’t seen it in so long… Barack will NEVER allow you to go back to your lives.”

Look, I agree.  We should be angry about what has been done to our country.  We should demand more of our leaders and ourselves.  We should have a persistent voice in our ears telling us that we can accomplish our goals, we can live out our dreams, that we “are better than anyone’s limited expectations.”

Then there was the bit of news made at this event, about a Mrs. Shriver who showed up at the end.  I pasted the video above, so you can see it for yourself.  I consider it very significant.  It will be an above-the-fold story for two days in California, given all the drama of a family split, the mystique of the Kennedys, etc.  Moreover, Democrats generally like the first family for whatever reason, and so it has a real-world residual effect.  But really, Shriver’s speech folded nicely into the Obama message, this idea that we are the ones we have been waiting for, that change begins with you, as it says on Obama’s Super Bowl ad.

Obviously there have been significant gains for Obama in the Golden State over the past week.  Based on what I had seen from the delegate allocation (particularly that practically every Congressional district with a heavy Latino population offers 4 delegates, which means Obama will split those while winning extra delegates elsewhere), I was ready to predict that Obama would lose the popular vote while taking the majority of the delegates.  Now, I’m almost ready to believe the words of one supporter, moments after Shriver took the stage.

“We just took California.  We just took California.”

Here are some pics: