Michelle Obama to? speak at N.C. A&T May commencement

It might be due to Augustine Joseph’s audacity that Michelle Obama will be giving the May commencement address at N.C. Agricultural & Technical University.

Joseph, president of the university’s College Democrats of N.C. chapter, had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama last October. After their handshake and official picture, Joseph presented the president with his N.C. A&T logo lapel pin.

“This is a symbol of Aggie pride,” he said. “You will need it when you come back and speak at A&T.”

The president gave a sincere laugh, Joseph said. “But then I said, ‘Mr. President, I am serious.’”

Joseph said Obama responded with an “OK.”

During the course of this year, N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin tried to reach out to Obama and invite him to speak at the May graduation ceremony.

But it wasn’t until last week that N.C. A&T received a call regarding the Obama administration’s decision. The White House told the university that Michelle Obama, not her husband, would be speaking at the address.

The White House officially announced Wednesday that the first lady would be speaking at N.C. A&T’s graduation. Compensation for the commencement address has not been requested.

Greensboro Coliseum will host the graduation ceremony with the first lady and about 1,100 N.C. A&T graduates.

The university is expecting an increase in attendants to hear Michelle Obama speak. The president is not expected to be in attendance.

Previously, the university hosted Donna Brazile, a political analyst for the Democratic Party, at its December commencement and Randal Pinkett, co-founder, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, for its spring 2011 ceremony.

“Twitter says the student body is really excited. As a campus community, we are excited and absolutely pleased,” said Nicole Pride, associate vice chancellor for university relations.

Joseph said he saw tweets from people worried about not being able to get into the graduation ceremony because of the high profile status of the speaker.

“People were saying, ‘It’s going to be a circus,’” he said.

James Stimson, professor of political science at UNC-CH, said in an email that the Obama administration’s decision to have Michelle speak at N.C. A&T isn’t without political motivation.

“Everything the president and first lady do during campaign season is calculated for political goals,” he said.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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